NDP keeps pushing for auto insurance reform

Over 150 local residents packed an auto insurance town hall meeting I hosted in November to pressure this government to bring down the unfair auto insurance rates we pay in our community.

The community meeting was part of a series of auto insurance town halls Ontario’s NDP is holding across the GTA, each packed with people demanding change.

Our community continues to pay some of the highest auto insurance rates in this country even though we do not have the highest number of accidents on our streets.  In fact, there are even some in this community who are unable to drive because the insurance is simply unaffordable.

Ontario’s NDP has been fighting against auto insurance postal code discrimination for years but the Liberals, and now Doug Ford’s Conservative government, sided with big auto insurance corporations over the people.

In 2012, former NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh (and current federal NDP leader) tabled a private member’s bill that would have ended postal code discrimination, but both the Conservatives and the Liberals voted against it, and the bill failed. Later, the NDP extracted a promise from the provincial Liberals to reduce auto insurance rates by 15 per cent, but the Liberals simply broke their promise.

Most recently in October 2018, an NDP bill by MPP Gurratan Singh who attended our community meeting, called for auto insurance companies to treat the GTA as a single postal code when determining insurance rates.

Unfortunately, Doug Ford’s Conservative government voted against this NDP bill that aimed to bring down insurance rates for drivers. What’s more, one of the first things the Ford government did when taking office was to pave the way for a nine per cent hike to auto insurance rates.

Our community is tired of being taken advantage of by auto insurance corporations and deserve to be treated fairly.  I will continue to keep up the fight.

Ford government must stop putting down our community

Many in our community were rightly offended when a minister in Doug Ford’s PC government made comments in the Ontario Legislature that put down our community.

It occurred during Question Period (a time when MPPs seek information from Ontario’s premier and their ministers as well as hold them to account for their actions and decisions), when a fellow NDP MPP asked a question about ending police carding.  Rather than answer the question, the minister spoke of wearing a bulletproof vest at Jane and Finch and visiting sites that previously had “bullet-ridden people killed in the middle of the night.”

All words spoken in Ontario’s Legislature are recorded forever in what are called the Hansard transcripts.  Thanks to this minister, we are again stigmatized but this time in Queen’s Park documents.

The following day, I used my first Member’s Statement to balance his harsh words with a positive message about our community.  I am sharing these words with you as well:

“Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you and all members on your election to this prestigious House. I would also like to thank my family, friends, team and the great people of Humber River – Black Creek. It is an honour and a dream to represent my lifelong home.

Within Humber River – Black Creek is the Jane and Finch community where I grew up. It is a place where over a hundred languages are spoken, and the hospitality of people is second to none.

It’s a place of active young people, eager students and caring teachers, thriving businesses, and brilliant entrepreneurs.

We are a community of hard working parents, educated professionals, inspired artists, amazing athletes, active seniors, and passionate activists.

We have beautiful naturalized areas and parks, annual events and festivals, where families gather and children play.

Yesterday, however, it was with great disappointment that a government minister named my community only to describe it as a place of crime, as he dodged a question from my esteemed colleague, MPP Kevin Yarde who was calling for an end to the discriminatory practice of police carding.

Unfortunately, this stigmatization is nothing new to Jane and Finch, but it is especially hurtful and callous to hear it in this house. Words spoken here carry great weight and as such must be weighed carefully.

Rather than apologize, the Conservative Minister sent a representative here last night to read a mean-spirited and insensitive statement.

Jane and Finch, and Humber River – Black Creek, deserve better than this.”

Our community doesn’t need opportunistic photo-ops from the Ford government that casts us in a negative light. Addressing safety is something we all want, but this is not the way to do it.  

I will continue to fight for the issues that matter to us like lowering the unfair auto insurance rates we face, access to better jobs, improved health care, and proper funding for our schools and education. 

And I will challenge the Ford government’s negative and tiresome stereotypes of our neighbourhood that hurt all of us.

Our Community Deserves Fair Auto Insurance

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”.