It’s 2018 and the Downsview community still pays some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country.
I raised the issue of auto insurance company discrimination towards our community as far back as 2012 when I co-hosted a crowded town hall meeting with Ontario NDP leader, Andrea Horwath. Local residents were angry about sky-high premiums and a lack of government action on this important issue.
At the time, the Ontario NDP conducted research on the matter and showed that the same person would pay a premium of $1,153 if they lived at Lawrence Park, but $2,517 if they lived at Jane-Finch. I dug deeper and found that we faced this cost discrimination despite the fact that our neighbourhood had neither the highest rates of vehicle crime nor accidents.
With pressure from the NDP, the government promised a reduction of 15% on auto insurance rates. In 2016, when the government was criticized for not delivering on the reduction, Premier Wynne referred to her promise as more of a “stretch goal”.
In early 2017, with pressure for action mounting, the government released the Marshall Report. Local disability and personal injury lawyer Juan Carranza is skeptical of this report, saying “The government’s report does little to address the power imbalance between insurers and accident victims and assumes the insurance industry will act out of the goodness of their hearts.” Mr. Carranza further cited a lack of transparency around auto insurers’ profits and the amount of money they spend fighting to deny the claims of accident victims.
A year after the report’s release, local residents have yet to see an improvement in the auto insurance system. Once again, this past March, I co-hosted a local auto insurance town hall meeting with Ontario NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, to give our community the opportunity to voice their concerns on this important issue. Residents packed the room and watched online, expressing frustration with the government and stating that their insurance rates continue to rise.
Andrea Horwath spoke strongly for better government oversight, stating “An NDP government will deliver the 15% savings the Liberals refused to deliver and we won’t allow your postal code to determine how much you pay.”
Auto insurance relief is long overdue, especially in our community where families struggling to pay the bills also pay the country’s highest auto insurance premiums. In fact, many local residents who can afford a car cannot afford the insurance, so they face needless hours of daily commute times to distant jobs. The auto insurance industry is government regulated and the people deserve better government oversight and accountability rather than broken promises and “stretch goals”.