Vaughan Hammond, CFIB director of provincial affairs for Newfoundland and Labrador, says with 126.1 per cent more assets than liabilities, WorkplaceNL took in $180 million more than it needed in 2016.
“We don’t want them to go back to where they were, but we also think that they need to follow the funding target,” Hammond told The Telegram.
“Without following the target and without finding ways to make sure they’re at 110 per cent, which is a good target, they can still meet their liabilities with whatever assets they have.”
Under the policy, the agency sets assessment rates to create a funded position between 110 and 120 per cent in an effort to avoid any volatility in the investment market, employer payroll, claims cost and health care costs.
WorkplaceNL CEO Dennis Hogan wasn’t available for an interview, but in an emailed response he stated that, “the improvement in the funded position is due, in part, to the continued efforts of workers and employers in helping to lower the injury rate to an all-time low and managing the costs of the workers’ compensation system.”
This is the third consecutive year the injury fund has been fully funded and the first time it has exceeded the 120 per cent target, which allows for a decrease in rates. But since the rates for 2017 have already been set, Hogan stated, there will be no changes until 2018.
Hogan also pointed out the agency has lowered the rate by 25 per cent in the past five years, from $2.75 to $2.06 per $100 of assessable payroll.
The current policy only calls for the potential of rebates on premiums once the funding reaches 140 per cent.
In a poll of 136 members in the province, the CFIB found that 82 per cent supported the idea of rebates when a funding target of 110 per cent was reached.
Hammond says he appreciates the need for WorkplaceNL to keep investment revenue top of mind and welcomes the decrease in rates in recent years, but he doesn’t understand the need to continue to expand it at the expense of the business community once the target is met.
With uncertainty around the growing cost of electricity stemming from the Muskrat Falls development and other challenges weighing on independent business owners, Hammond says, it’s important for WorkplaceNL and other government agencies to act now to alleviate the burdens placed on consumers and small business owners.
“I think it’s incumbent on government entities now and it has to be a cross-government kind of idea whereby if they can contribute to reducing the tax burden on consumers and small business owners, then those efforts have to be made and any opportunities that are there, they have to take advantage of those.”