Auto insurance rates in Ontario increased in last quarter of 2017

File photo of traffic moving along a congested highway.
File photo of traffic moving along a congested highway. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg/File

TORONTO – Auto insurance rates in Ontario increased in the last quarter of 2017, putting the Liberal government further away from its promise to cut rates by 15 per cent.

Fourth quarter numbers released today by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario show an average increase of about one per cent.

Ontario’s finance ministry says that amounts to a nearly 5.5 per cent average decrease in rates since 2013, when the Liberal government promised an average decrease of 15 per cent by August of 2015.

READ MORE: Ontario auto insurance rates drop by less than 1%

When that self-imposed deadline passed, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted it had been what she called a “stretch goal.”

Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the new rate filings “underscore the need for structural reforms to the auto insurance system in this province.”

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The government recently announced a package of auto insurance changes, including standard treatment plans for common collision injuries such as sprains and whiplash, independent and neutral examination centres to provide medical assessments for more serious injuries, and ensuring that contingency fees set by lawyers are fair and transparent

READ MORE: Bill Kelly: Government misses the mark on auto insurance again

“Our plan includes a comprehensive set of measures that will increase consumer protection, combat fraud in the system and ensure those injured in an auto accident get the care they need when they need it,” Sousa said in a statement.

“In doing so, we are reducing premium costs over the long-term for the 10 million drivers in Ontario without cutting accident benefits.”

The Liberal plan would also establish a Serious Fraud Office, staffed in part by officers from the Ontario Provincial Police, to tackle abuse in the system. The government has estimated the cost of auto insurance fraud to be as high as $1.6 billion a year, and says by cracking down on abuse, rates will be lowered.

A government-commissioned report last year found that Ontario has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada despite also having one of the lowest levels of accidents and fatalities.

READ MORE: Ontario’s auto insurance system ‘one of the least effective’ in Canada: report

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The average auto insurance premium in Ontario is $1,458, which is almost 55 per cent higher than the average of all other Canadian jurisdictions, the report found. If Ontario’s premiums were closer to the Canadian average of about $930, it would save Ontario drivers almost 40 per cent – or about $4 billion a year, it said.