Liberals promise end of 'postal code discrimination' in auto insurance if re-elected
New Democrats say Liberals and PCs voted against similar NDP proposal
The Ontario Liberals are promising to end the insurance industry practice of charging higher premiums for drivers based on where they live — which they call "postal code discrimination," but the New Democrats claim the Liberals have stolen another page from the NDP playbook.
The promise is aimed at garnering votes in places like Brampton, a city in Greater Toronto's so-called 905 belt that's expected to be a major battleground in the June 7 election. Brampton has the highest auto insurance rates in the province, according to Kanetix.ca, a website that helps consumers compare auto insurance rates.
"Families are being hit hard by high auto insurance rates simply because of their postal codes," said Dr. Parminder Singh, the Liberal Party candidate for Brampton East, at a campaign event Thursday.
Singh says a re-elected Liberal government would work with insurance companies to end the practice.
"Unlike other parties we have a plan that will deliver," he told a crowd of supporters.
Motorist Rupinder Brar says he would support such a move and that premiums drop by $80 to $100 a month just 30 kilometres from where he lives.
"That's totally discrimination for the Brampton people," said Brar, who says reducing his family's insurance bill would be a big help.
"The gas rates are high, hydro rates are high -- almost all of your income are going to these utilities, these expenses. So no more savings."
Polling shows that pocketbook issues and affordability struggles are on the minds of many Ontario voters, with most income brackets feeling the high costs of housing, car insurance, hydro and daycare.
"Seriously, we pay a lot more here in Brampton and I don't know why. I'm not having any accidents and still I'm paying a lot. I don't know if it's the same for everyone," said resident Wilma Warich.
"Compared to Mississauga and Toronto we pay a lot — a lot, a lot," said Nezar Saad al Den. "I wish, I hope. We have heard this before by nothing happened. I don't know why it's so much higher in Brampton.
According to Kanetix.ca, a 35-year-old driver of a 2014 Honda Civic, for example, would face a yearly premium of $1,399 in Toronto. The same driver would get dinged $2,268 a year in Brampton.
Tom Rakocevic, the NDP candidate in Humber River–Black Creek, says the Wynne Liberals can't be trusted, especially on the issue of auto insurance reduction.
"They're changing their tune — this is desperation," said Rakocevic. "The Liberals are doing very poorly in this election and they are just saying anything ... As a person living in one of the districts that is highest charged, I'm really disappointed."
Rakocevic says in 2012, both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives voted against a private members bill, tabled by then New Democratic MPP Jagmeet Singh, calling for an end to using territory as a rating factor to determine auto insurance rates.
He also points out that back in 2013, the Liberal minority government supported an NDP motion to reduce auto insurance rates in the province by 15 per cent. But reductions in premiums have fallen well short of that goal.
Rakocevic also points to last year's Fair Auto Insurance Act, which promised to lower premiums by combating insurance fraud. He says that legislation has not delivered savings for motorists.
The Ontario PCs have also said that they would crack down on insurance fraudsters and uninsured drivers to reduce the cost of insuring drivers.
The party's previous platform, which was scrapped after Doug Ford was elected to lead the party, also promised an end to "geographic discrimination" for auto insurance, while not allowing insurance companies to raise rates in other parts of the province.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says it would "be pleased" to sit down with the province and talk about savings for drivers.
"The government sets the rating factors that determine what people pay and insurers are governed by these," said Celyeste Power, a spokesperson for the bureau. "We would be pleased to discuss innovative solutions that would benefit consumers with government."
Industry representatives have said in the past that banning the use of territory as a rating factor to determine auto insurance rates would negatively impact drivers in areas of the province now classified as lower risk.