Tomorrow is Election Day in Ontario and many of us will be off to the polls to cast our votes.
On June 3, 2014, we saw the election debate between the three major party leaders. While a number of issues were addressed, including scandal, the deficit, and job creation, auto insurance reform was not one of them. It is unfortunate that the topic did not attract more attention from the candidates as the issue will affect most Ontarians.
While the candidates proposed changes to auto insurance in their policy platforms at the outset of their campaigns, it has not been a prevalent topic of discussion as we near the polls.
The Liberals promised a drop in average insurance rates by 15%, which has yet to be achieved. Earlier this year, they introduced Bill 171 that proposed amendments to the Dispute Resolution System (“DRS”), a crackdown on fraud, further regulation for the towing industry, and a reduced rate for pre-judgment interest. Due to the call for an election, Bill 171 was not passed.
As part of the NDP platform, Andrea Horwath, stated she would achieve a 15% insurance premium reduction within the first year of government and would “drive some changes in the auto insurance industry.” However, she failed to elaborate on exactly what the changes might include or explain how they would be achieved.
According to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, a 6% premium reduction has already been realized.
The Conservatives criticized Bill 171 when it was initially introduced and responded with their own plan for DRS reform. They propose to increase accountability from insurers and reduce fraud by further utilizing the Health Claims for Auto Insurance (HCAI) electronic billing system. Similar to their opposition, they also call for reduced premiums but have not stated how much of a discounted rate the public could expect or when it would take effect.
While the platforms have outlined each of the parties’ goals, the candidates have done little to explain how they will be obtained.
As an Ontarian and insurance consumer, I am interested to know what the candidates will do to ensure that premiums do not continue to increase, especially when accident benefits continue to be slashed.
As a personal injury lawyer and OTLA member, it is important to me that the elected government does not ignore this issue and continue to allow my clients to face systematic unfairness.
Will the candidates make efforts to eliminate the threshold or reduce the deductible? What action will they take to increase access to justice for accident victims? It appears these questions will remain unanswered as we head to the polls. However, the election is only the beginning, and I will continue to write to my MPPs and assist OTLA in raising public awareness to ensure these issues are given the consideration they deserve.
Contributed by Michael Giordano, an OTLA member and a lawyer practising with Sal Guzzo LL.B. Professional Corporation.