TORONTO – Insurance companies have cut payouts by billions of dollars over the past several years but motorists have seen little benefit by way of lower premiums, New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said Tuesday.
Election campaigning at a mall in east-end Toronto, Horwath accused the minority Liberal government of siding with the insurance companies.
“The Liberals are more interested in keeping the insurance companies happy than they are in bringing down rates for drivers,” Horwath said.
“People are not seeing a significant reduction in their auto insurance rates. Some people are seeing their rates go up.”
Rate levels have been a perennial issue in Ontario for more than a decade, with successive governments promising to lower them. Few have managed to deliver as promised.
Horwath said the Liberals pledged in the 2013 budget to cut rates by 15 per cent but that hasn’t happened because they didn’t have the political will to follow through.
“This is one of the reasons why I was not able to in good conscience support that (2014) budget,” she said.
In Depth: Ontario Election 2014
An NDP government, if elected on June 12, would be serious about seeing rates come down by an “achievable” 15 per cent, she said.
However, she was less clear about how she might manage to do what others before her have failed to do.
“I won’t do what the Liberals have done, which is change the rules around auto insurance to give the insurance companies a break so that their payouts are $2 billion less each and every year and then not force those savings to go back to the consumer,” she said.
Horwath said she believes money is already owed to drivers for changes the Liberal government made in 2010.
An NDP government, she said, would force insurance companies to pass on any rate reductions to motorists immediately, adding the current delay of three to six months on rate changes should not occur.
“If the government makes a change to get the rates down, then that rate change should happen immediately.”
Rates have come down an average of close to six per cent since August 2013, according to Ministry of Finance figures.
Still, the Insurance Bureau of Canada says the current system is “simply not working.”
“Too much of the money doesn’t actually go to accident victims,” the bureau says on its website.
“Instead, it pays for other costs like legal fees, fraud and assessments by for-profit medical facilities.”
In a statement, the Liberals pointed out that some voters have told Horwath their insurance rates have come down.
“Like a lot of things Andrea Horwath says, her auto insurance rhetoric sounds good, it just isn’t true,” the party said in a statement.
Horwath opted for mainstreeting rather than new policy announcements Tuesday.
She visited a mall food court, where she glad-handed and chatted with patrons, as well as an ethnic supermarket, before calling it a day.
© 2014 The Canadian Press