Liberals promise end of 'postal code discrimination' in auto insurance if re-elected

Drivers in Brampton complain that they pay higher insurance premiums than other cities. According to Kanetix, the city has the highest car insurance rates in Ontario.

New Democrats say Liberals and PCs voted against similar NDP proposal

A busy section of Queen Street in Brampton. Insurance premiums are almost $1,000 a year higher in Brampton than in Toronto for the same car and driver. (Gary Morton/CBC)

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.

Dr. Parminder Singh, centre, the Liberal Party candidate for Brampton East at a campaign event with Brampton South candidate, Sonia Sidhu, Brampton Centre candidate Safdar Hussain and Brampton North candidate Vic Dhillon. (Gary Morton/CBC)

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."

Rupinder Brar says something must be done to lower auto insurance premiums in Brampton. He says moving just 20 minutes down the road can mean up to $100 less a month in premiums. (Gary Morton/CBC)

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.

Wilma Warich says higher auto insurance premiums for motorists in Brampton are unfair and should be addressed. (Gary Morton/CBC)

"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.

Motorist Nezar Saad al Den says he doesn't understand why car insurance is so much higher in Brampton. He supports and end to geographic pricing. (Gary Morton/CBC)

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."

Tom Rakocevic, the NDP candidate in the Humber River–Black Creek, says Wynne Liberals have lost all credibility on the issue of auto insurance reduction. (YouTube)

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.

About the Author

Philip Lee-Shanok

Senior Reporter, CBC Toronto

From small town Ontario to Washington D.C., Philip has covered stories big and small. An award-winning reporter with two decades of experience in Ontario and Alberta, he's now a Senior Reporter for CBC Toronto on television, radio and online. He is also a National Reporter for The World This Weekend on Radio One.