Jagmeet Singh and Mario Sergio propose amendments they say will improve Ontario's auto insurance
By David RosEditor Ontario drivers pay the highest insurance premiums anywhere in Canada, and this is putting a squeeze on many families, especially those in low income brackets.Because of this, two MPPs have tabled private members' bills which they say will help to ease this burden.Both Jagmeet Singh (NDP, Bramalea-Gore Malton) and Mario Sergio (Liberal, York West) have presented bills that they say help to ease this problem.Singh presented Bill 45, which he says will put an end to what he calls the “geographic discrimination,” of drivers based upon the areas in which they live. When looking at insurance rates across the province, Singh said that it is often those who live in lower income and more ethnicially diverse communities that often pay higher insurance rates than those who live in more well to do areas.“The insurance rates are far too high in general,” Singh said. “It's unfair to charge higher insurance rates based on where you live in a particular area like the GTA when [the driving conditions] are all the same.”In addition, Bill 45 calls for insurers to explain to customer in plain language the risk classification criteria that was used to determine the insurance rate. It also calls for the insurer to provide an explanation in writing upon renewal if a customer's insurance rate has gone up by more than 5 per cent.The bill also calls for the criteria which insurance companies use to determine rates to take into account only the collisions in which the driver has been determined to be “principally at fault.” Under Bill 45, the only other factors insurers can use to determine rates are how many years a person has been driving, how many kilometres that person drives a year, and the population of the area where the driver lives.The bill clearly states that if two or more of these factors are taken into account, none can be weighted more heavily than the population of the region where the driver lives.Sergio said he disagrees with Bill 45 because it limits the criteria that insurers can use to determine rates, and thus it would lower insurance premiums for potentially dangerous drivers.“What this bill is doing now actually, it is lowering insurance for people that have accidents, not related with their car,” Sergio said, meaning that someone could potentially be involved in an accident caused by the consumption of alcohol or other forms of risky behaviour, but because such an accident does not involve a motor vehicle, insurance companies would no longer be able to factor this information when determining that person's auto insurance rate.“Even [Mothers against Drunk Driving] is against it, so really, [Singh] is not doing any favours to our people.”Singh, however, contends that the bill is necessary because often, people who have had good driving records for a number of years have seen their insurance premiums skyrocket because they got into one accident, regardless of whether or not they were at fault.“Simply getting in an accident should not mean that your years and years of good driving should go out the door,” Singh said.Sergio has introduced Bill 71, which is intended to get lower rates for young drivers by providing them with 6 years of driving experience credits, if they have taken a provincially accredited drivers' education course.“As you know with 18-20 year-olds, most of the time, it's the parents that end up paying for insurance which most of the time is very exorbitant,” Sergio said. “Not only do they have to pay for the insurance, they have to pay for the car as well and this would go a long way in cutting insurance for new drivers by two thirds.”Sergio said that in the current auto insurance system, young drivers are often “found guilty” before they have even had the chance to prove themselves on the road by being charged such high insurance premiums. He added that Bill 71 would give young drivers a chance to begin driving on an equal playing field with other drivers and their rates will remain lowered so long as their driving record remains clean.“We would give them driving experience to bring the rates down and if that driver does not behave, causes accidents or gets a lot of tickets, then he's going to fall back into the old system,” Sergio said.Bill 71 has already passed the second reading at Queen's Park.Singh has been holding a series of town hall meetings with Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath in order to discuss his bill, as well as to promote the idea of having a publicly funded auto insurance in this province. One such meeting was held on May 24 at Emery C.I. where hundreds of people showed up in order to provide their input on high insurance rates.Singh said that publicly funded auto insurance would bring lower rates to Ontario drivers.“Public auto insurance by the very nature of it, would not be for profit, so when we look at other provinces that have it, they cover their costs, but they're not making a profit and all that potential profit would then be reflected in reducing the actual cost of the insurance,” he said.Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia currently all have public auto insurance systems while Quebec, has a hybrid system where basic public auto insurance coverage is offered and drivers are able to purchase additional coverage from private insurers.Sergio said he is not sure what kind of an impact that a public auto insurance system would have because we there has never been one in Ontario, but that he believes a better way to move forward on the issue of high insurance rates is to get together a group of experienced people to investigate how to create a fairer system.“We need to have a good committee, or a good organization to come up with good facts, good figures and say based on this information here, based on these facts, we can have lower insurance rates,” he said.