Time for balance

Since being elected, one of the most common concerns I’ve heard from people across the riding is the high price of auto insurance.
While the frustrations with high premiums are not unique to those of us living in Northwestern Ontario, the level of importance our vehicles play in our every-day lives are.
We don’t have the option of boarding a bus or a subway to travel to and from work, to medical appointments, or to shop for groceries, and many of those trips span distances of 50, 100, 200 km or more.
Auto insurance is unique. The government mandates that we all must have it, but it does little to protect consumers from rising premiums.
While the Financial Services Commission of Ontario must approve rate increases, it is little more than a rubber stamp and they continue to approve increased premiums—despite major changes that reduced a person’s coverage by the Liberal government in 2010.
In 2011 (the first full year of the reduced coverage), companies pocketed $3.4 billion in profits—up from an already lofty $1 billion the year before. Rather than result in savings for consumers, we saw our premiums actually increase.
The current system has made the industry extremely profitable and it’s time to bring in some balance.
After hearing from people across the Kenora-Rainy River riding, and comparing notes with my colleagues from across the province, we in the NDP believe that it is time for the government to step in and regulate a 15 percent reduction in rates for hard-working families and seniors.
Critics of this plan suggest that cost-saving efforts should be focused on reducing fraud. While I agree fraud plays a small part in increased premiums, if it were the problem insurance companies claim, they would not be making billions of dollars in profits annually.
Plus, as recently demonstrated by the changes made in 2010 that greatly benefitted the industry, there is no guarantee they will pass along these savings to the consumer.
This past week, my party put forward a motion calling on the premier to instruct the Financial Services Commission of Ontario “to gradually reduce average, industry-wide, private passenger auto insurance premiums by 15 percent,” and I am happy to report that it successfully passed with the support of some Liberal MPPs.
While this does not guarantee the premier will act, it does send a clear message that things need to change.
Fairness for auto insurance is one of my party’s five requests for the upcoming provincial budget. We believe strongly that immediate action needs to be taken.
More information on our five requests, in addition to a chance to have your own say, is contained in my pre-budget riding report, which will begin arriving in mailboxes this week.
I hope you will take the time to look it over and respond to the survey. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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