The NDP’s $3 billion WorkSafeBC mystery

The NDP’s $3 billion WorkSafeBC mystery

John Horgan’s NDP are ducking and dodging repeated questions about the financial state of WorkSafeBC — the agency responsible for keeping workers safe on the job.

Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals are working hard to get straight answers and accountability on what’s happened to the money hard-working British Columbians have entrusted to WorkSafe BC.

Add your name if you believe British Columbians deserve answers on what happened to the $3-billion WorkSafeBC surplus — and why the NDP won’t help small businesses with the costs of PPE to keep their workers and customers safe.

So what happened when — and who knew what? We’ve done our best to break down for you what we know so far:

May 11, 2020: Andrew Wilkinson writes a letter to John Horgan, asking the NDP government to use a portion of the WorkSafeBC surplus to provide partial refunds to employers purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves as they try to safely reopen their businesses. This proposal was based on the last publicly available financial reports from WorkSafeBC, which indicated a surplus of $2.9 billion at the end of 2018.

May 22, 2020: The Vancouver Sun publishes a Friday-evening story by reporter Rob Shaw, headlined: “WorkSafeBC has lost billions, can’t afford to help businesses buy PPE.” In it, NDP labour minister Harry Bains says the following:

“WorkSafeBC is not immune to COVID-19 either, their investments have sunk to almost zero when it comes to the surplus money they are sitting on,” Bains told Postmedia. “So almost all of the surplus has been wiped out a couple weeks ago because of our stock market, and that’s where the money was invested.”  

May 23, 2020: The BC Liberals issue a statement calling for clarity and a full accounting of WorkSafeBC’s financial losses, which the government ignores.

May 24, 2020: WorkSafeBC publishes a rare Sunday statement on its financial position, directly contradicting Minister Bains’ claim:

“Currently, for purposes of contingency planning, WorkSafeBC’s actuaries are considering multiple possible scenarios, based on widely varying economic forecasts. Some of these scenarios would result in a year-end fair value funding position at, or even slightly below, the 130 per cent funding target/threshold. Other scenarios would suggest lesser impacts in the current year. While current year-to-date investment losses are estimated to be approximately 5 per cent (or $1 billion, on an asset base of approximately $20 billion), it is impossible at this point to know what the actual final results will be.”  

May 25, 2020: The Vancouver Sun publishes a follow-up story, detailing the contradictions between Bains’ and WorkSafeBC’s accounts. A WorkSafeBC executive is quoted as saying: “The markets have been very volatile, but we are still in surplus.” However, both Bains and WorkSafeBC CEO Anne Naser refuse to grant the Sun an interview.

May 26, 2020: Andrew Wilkinson writes a letter to John Horgan asking for clarification on Bains’s claims around the disappearance of WorkSafeBC’s surplus, as well as disclosure of WorkSafeBC’s investments and audited 2019 Annual Report, to be followed by a report from the independent Auditor General.

The BC Liberals will continue to push for answers and accountability on the state of WorkSafeBC — and stand up for small businesses, workers, and taxpayers.

Add your name if you believe British Columbians deserve answers on what happened to the $3-billion WorkSafeBC surplus — and why the NDP won’t help small businesses with the costs of PPE to keep their workers and customers safe.

Background Information — WorkSafeBC Accident Fund Surplus

  • The last publicly available financial report from WorkSafeBC shows a $3.6 billion reserve and a $2.9 billion surplus as of December 31, 2018.
  • According to that report, WSBC had an investment portfolio of $17.647 billion. Of that amount, 45%, or approximately $8 billion, was invested in equities, while 29% was real assets and 26% was fixed-income investments.
  • Based on stock market indices, $8 billion in equities on December 31, 2018 should be worth as much as $8.8 billion today.
  • Even ignoring the gains from 2018 to January 2020, a 15% loss in the stock market on $8 billion would be $1.2 billion, not $3 billion as claimed by Bains.
  • The WorkSafeBC board of directors, appointed by the NDP government, is responsible for approving the investment of the fund, subject to the supervision and control of the Minister of Finance. The fund is managed by the BC Investment Management Corporation.