On­tario Lib­er­als pledge ac­tion on auto-in­sur­ance rates

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - OLIVER MOORE JAC­QUE­LINE NELSON

The On­tario Lib­er­als are promis­ing to stop auto-in­sur­ance com­pa­nies from us­ing the lo­ca­tion of cus­tomers’ homes to cal­cu­late pre­mi­ums, say­ing this will bring “im­me­di­ate re­lief” for driv­ers.

The campaign prom­ise on Thurs­day was an­other stab at the auto-in­sur­ance is­sue for the Grits − who fell short on their pledge in an ear­lier elec­tion to re­duce rates by 15 per cent – and was quickly ques­tioned by their po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and the in­dus­try.

An In­sur­ance Bureau of Canada spokes­woman noted that lo­ca­tion has been one of the gov­ern­ment-set fac­tors by which auto rates are de­ter­mined. The like­li­hood of col­li­sions, theft and fraud are as­sessed, in part, by postal codes, which can trans­late into sub­stan­tial vari­a­tion in rates de­pend­ing on where peo­ple live.

“For each in­di­vid­ual, these dif­fer­ent fac­tors would work in dif­fer­ent ways,” Ce­lyeste Power said. “Maybe [the Lib­eral pro­posal] helps some­one in one postal code, but then those costs are picked up by some­one in an­other postal code.”

Auto in­sur­ance is a hot po­lit­i­cal topic in On­tario, par­tic­u­larly for the pop­u­lous belt around Toronto in which the ma­jor­ity of com­muters drive to work. Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment was in Bramp­ton, one of those com­mu­ni­ties, and was openly pitched at the so-called 905 re­gion.

Harinder Malhi, the Lib­eral can­di­date for the rid­ing of Bramp­ton North, called the idea a mat­ter of fair­ness. “We will make sure that, early in our man­date, we find a so­lu­tion so that driv­ers like your­selves, and my­self, are not pe­nal­ized be­cause of where we live,” she said. “This is a plan that’s go­ing to pro­vide im­me­di­ate re­lief to our driv­ers and … it’s go­ing to make a pos­i­tive difference for fam­i­lies right across the Peel re­gion.”

The Lib­er­als could not im­me­di­ately pro­vide pro­jec­tions for how many peo­ple might be af­fected by the pol­icy change nor how much money they might save. Ac­cord­ing to Ms. Malhi, the specifics of how to en­act this pol­icy would have to wait until af­ter the June 7 elec­tion.

“When re-elected, right af­ter our man­date, we will look into it,” she said. “All op­tions are on the ta­ble. We will be ex­plor­ing op­tions early in our man­date, hope­fully within the first few months.”

The Lib­er­als’ an­nounce­ment capped a 24-hour pe­riod in which all three par­ties sought to por­tray them­selves as friends of mo­torists. Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Doug Ford promised on Wed­nes­day that his party would lower the gas tax as a way of mak­ing it cheaper to drive. And at a tran­sit event on Thurs­day morn­ing, New Demo­cratic Party Leader An­drea Hor­wath said she could not ac­cept road tolls be­cause they would be un­fair to poorer driv­ers.

In a state­ment later on Thurs­day, the NDP said the Lib­eral in­sur­ance an­nounce­ment was an ex­am­ple of why “On­tar­i­ans feel cyn­i­cal about pol­i­tics,” stat­ing that the Grits voted in 2012 against a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill that in­cluded a sim­i­lar pledge about stop­ping in­sur­ers us­ing ge­og­ra­phy as a ba­sis for as­sess­ing pre­mi­ums.

In their own state­ment, the Tories called the Lib­er­als “un­trust­wor­thy” and crit­i­cized them for fail­ing to meet their own goal of low­er­ing in­sur­ance rates. The party agreed, though, that bas­ing rates on lo­ca­tion is un­fair and pledged to “look at all op­tions to make auto in­sur­ance more af­ford­able for On­tario fam­i­lies.”

Allen Wyn­perle, a per­sonal-in­jury lit­i­ga­tor in Hamil­ton who is vice-pres­i­dent of the On­tario Trial Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion, said the Lib­eral pro­posal would be a step to­ward greater fair­ness, ar­gu­ing that there are fac­tors other than sim­ply lo­ca­tion that de­ter­mine the like­li­hood of a ve­hi­cle be­ing stolen. But he added that this is a small step given the big­ger changes needed to make in­sur­ance fairer for On­tar­i­ans. The IBC’s Ms. Power agreed.

“We all know that the auto-in­sur­ance sys­tem needs work,” she said. “It’s not work­ing for gov­ern­ments, it’s not work­ing for in­sur­ers and it’s cer­tainly not work­ing for con­sumers. Our po­si­tion on all of this is, let’s sit down and talk about some in­no­va­tive solutions.”

This is a plan that’s go­ing to pro­vide im­me­di­ate re­lief to our driv­ers and … it’s go­ing to make a pos­i­tive difference for fam­i­lies right across the Peel re­gion. HARINDER MALHI LIB­ERAL CAN­DI­DATE FOR BRAMP­TON NORTH RID­ING

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