TORONTO – Car insurance companies in Ontario should be forced to cut premiums by 15 per cent, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday as she added to her growing list of demands for premier-designate Kathleen Wynne.
Major changes to Ontario’s auto insurance regulations in 2010 “dramatically” reduced benefits for drivers and cut the value of statutory accident payouts in half, turning the new rules into a huge “bonus” for companies, said Horwath.
“In 2011, the value of statutory accident payouts fell by just under $2 billion, an astonishing 50 per cent reduction from 2010, but that same year Ontario’s auto insurance rates still increased by five per cent,” she told reporters.
“Fifteen per cent is reasonable when you consider that their payouts were reduced by 50 per cent.”
Drivers have yet to see any real reductions in their rates, so if the industry won’t cut premiums voluntarily the government should mandate it through the provincial regulator, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, added Horwath.
“The bottom line is if they’re not prepared to change it, then yes, government will step in and say ‘You must reduce your rates by 15 per cent within the upcoming year,’” she said.
“What I’ve said to the industry, and now I’m saying to the government, is it’s time to get serious about the increasing rates in auto (insurance) and the non-realization of savings that should have happened over the last year or so.”
The NDP calculated a 15 per cent reduction in premiums would save the average Ontario driver about $226 a year.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada said the NDP did not consider expenses, just claim payouts, and noted insurance fraud costs Ontario drivers up to $1.6 billion a year.
The industry association said 95 to 97 per cent of every dollar raised in premiums went to pay for claims in 2011, with the auto insurance sector showing a profit of $233 million compared with losses of $1.76 billion in 2010 and $824 million in 2009.
“We are seeing improvements, yes,” said Pete Karageorgos, IBC’s manager of consumer and industry relations.
“We in Ontario still have some of the highest claims payouts across the country.”
Elections Ontario returns show the Insurance Bureau of Canada donated over $70,000 to candidates in the Ontario Liberal leadership contest, including $25,000 each to Wynne and former Windsor-West MPP Sandra Pupatello, who finished second.
The minority Liberal government will need the help of at least one opposition party if it hopes to avoid an election this year, and the NDP have a series of issues they want dealt with if Wynne wants their support.
Horwath also called Monday for $30 million in funding to eliminate home care waiting lists and institute a five-day guarantee for seniors who need health services at home.
“Everyone agrees that home care is cost effective and makes a real difference in the life of seniors, yet we have a system that is not working as well as it should be,” said Horwath.
The government said 90 per cent of seniors who need home care get it within nine days of a referral by a doctor or social worker.
Last week, the NDP called on Wynne to close $1.3 billion in corporate tax loopholes, spend nearly $200 million to create jobs for youth, and call a public inquiry into the cancelled gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, which cost taxpayers at least $230 million.
The NDP is not dictating what must be in the upcoming budget, insisted Horwath.
“I’m not saying these are the specific details that have to be in a budget, but I am saying we have a session upcoming and these things are very achievable and they need to be part of the government’s plan for this session,” she said.
“We want to see some movement on affordability matters … on the health care system … on youth jobs, but none of the movement can happen, in my opinion, if we don’t have a real commitment to the accountability around the gas plants.”
Wynne said last week that she wouldn’t want to see a government facing a $11.9-billion deficit spend millions more on a public inquiry, but she did not rule out a Conservative request to have a legislative committee study the cancelled gas plants.