Car insurance rates to rise across Ont.

Car insurance premiums could increase across Ontario in coming months, with Toronto area drivers expected to see the biggest rate hikes.

Drivers in Ontario could see their auto insurance premiums soar in coming months, but Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday that the province plans to address the increasing cost of auto insurance.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario recently approved rate changes for a number of insurance companies. According to the commission's report, the average rate increase over the first three quarters of 2009 was 6.2 per cent.

But a report in the Toronto Star says that rates could actually increase by an average of 9.1 per cent across Ontario, with premiums increasing by as much as 14 per cent in the Toronto area.

Insurance companies said increasing physiotherapy and rehabilitation costs for people who have been injured in collisions are driving the premium increases.

McGuinty said the Finance Ministry has been reviewing a number of recommendations that could help control insurance costs, including capping treatment costs for minor injuries at $25,000. The government has also been reviewing insurance rates as part of a five-year project.

"Minister [Dwight] Duncan will be bringing forward a new proposal, which is designed to ensure we continue to have the right kind of balance, and by that I mean adequate levels of protection for drivers and affordability at the same time," McGuinty said.

The NDP said that a publicly run auto insurance program could solve the problem of soaring insurance premiums.

"It works in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec," said NDP MPP France Gélinas. "Their premiums are way lower than ours, and the benefits to people who are victims of auto accidents are better."

Provincial officials said a public insurance program is not an option in Ontario.

Consumer advocate Lee Romanov said that Ontario drivers should brace for higher premiums.

"We're stuck with it, essentially," Romanov said "Right now, these rates are going up. They've had approval. Insurance companies can raise their rates up to four times a year, and we're seeing this."