The provincial government is paying meagre attention to the most serious breaches of worker safety in Ontario.

That’s the conclusion of  NDP MPP and Employment Standards Critic Cheri DiNovo, who earlier this week criticized the McGuinty government for its “lack of action on workplace safety.”

On Tuesday during question period, DiNovo asked the Minister of Labour how many sites have been inspected and how many violations have been documented since four construction workers died in a scaffolding accident last Christmas Eve.

“Shockingly, the Labour Minister couldn’t give concrete data on how many workplaces have been inspected since the announcement of the so-called inspection blitz,” said DiNovo in a statement.

But Labour Minister Peter Fonseca defended the government, pointing out that the Liberals had launched a 90 day Safe at Work Ontario blitz, the results of which would be made public at the end of the 90 day period.

In 2008, Fonseca said his inspectors performed 42,000 inspections.

Ten thousand of those 42,000 were in cases where they were called in,” said Fonseca. “The other 32,000 were proactive inspections. That’s what our inspectors will continue to do, those proactive inspections. We have also embarked on a comprehensive review of our occupational health and safety, both enforcement and prevention systems.”

DiNovo questioned the effectiveness of the blitz, noting a complainant who wrote to the ministry about unsafe scaffolding at his condominium.

“Ten weeks after sending this letter, along with photos to illustrate the safety violations, he has yet to hear one word back from this ministry,” said DiNovo. “How can we have any confidence that this minister is serious about cracking down on unsafe workplaces if this minister shows such blatant disregard for a legitimate complaint?”

On Wednesday during question period, Fonseca said he’d been advised that a ministry inspector visited the site and ensured compliance with the Occupational Health And Safety Act.

“The inspector spoke to property management regarding the safety issues raised in that letter,” said Fonseca. “The inspector prepared a written field report and a copy was left with the workplace on November 3. I have also been advised that a letter will be sent to the individual who raised those concerns.”

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.