Sousa predicts car insurance rates will drop; mandates discount for winter tires

Ontario’s opposition parties say the Liberal government failed to keep its promise to cut auto insurance rates by 15 per cent and call a mandated discount for winter tires “a gimmick.”

The Liberals promised to reduce car insurance premiums an average of 15 per cent by last August as part of a deal to get NDP support for the 2013 budget when they were still a minority government.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said some companies have cut premiums 10-to-15 per cent while others haven’t cut them “near enough,” but he’s confident they will be down further when new figures are released October 15, 2015.

“What we want to do is ensure that we have a sustainable approach that enables those insurance companies to reduce rates by reducing the costs of those claims,” he said.

The New Democrats said the Liberals broke their pledge to cut rates 15 per cent in two years in a “colossal” way.

“They’ve consistently put the interests of insurance companies ahead of the interests of Ontario drivers, who are paying the highest auto insurance premiums in the entire country,” said NDP auto insurance critic Jagmeet Singh.

The Liberals never had a real commitment to cut rates 15 per cent, and only made a promise to “buy off the NDP” in 2013, said Progressive Conservative finance critic Vic Fedeli.

“It was a hollow plan,” said Fedeli. “It was only words and never backed up with any action.”

Premiums actually increased slightly during the last quarter, but Sousa said new legislation will lower costs further for insurance companies, which he insisted will lead to reduced rates for drivers.

“We are going to continue to be vigilant in order for those rates to go down on an ongoing basis,” he said.

The government was also working with the insurance sector to find ways of lowering premiums for new drivers, who often cannot find an affordable rate.

Sousa announced insurance companies must offer a discount starting Jan. 1, 2016 to drivers who install winter tires, but there is nothing to say how much of a cut in premiums must result.

“You would think that if you were serious about mandating a cut, you would know the percentage,” said Fedeli. “It’s more gimmicky than anything.”

Sousa rejected the idea of making winter tires mandatory in Ontario as Quebec has done, saying not everyone uses their car year-round.

“What we do want is for people to have the benefit of reduced rates when they do buy those tires,” he said. “We want that safety, but we want to leave that discretion up to the consumers based on their activity.”

The NDP said insurance companies saved over $1 billion after regulation changes introduced by the Liberals in 2010, but didn’t pass along the savings to drivers.

“They’ve consistently lowered the cost for insurance companies without making sure premiums actually go down,” said Singh. “So they’ve given insurance companies all these cost saving tools, cut their costs in so many ways, but there hasn’t been any proportional reduction in premiums.”

 

Ontario Appoints Advisor on Auto Insurance and Pensions

Ontario is appointing David Marshall as Advisor on auto insurance and pensions, starting Feb. 1, 2016. As an advisor to the Minister of Finance, Marshall will provide recommendations to the government on further ways to reduce auto insurance costs in Ontario, as well as guidance on implementing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).

Marshall has served as the President and CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) for the last six years. Marshall will apply the expertise he developed at WSIB in active claims management practices to identify additional opportunities for auto insurance reform. The goal of these reforms is to lead to better health outcomes, lower costs and more affordable insurance premiums.

As a former Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada and Deputy Receiver General, Marshall will bring his expertise in administering the federal government’s employee pension plan, as well as his experience managing the operations and technology of the Employment Insurance Fund, to support the government’s commitment to simple, reliable and cost-effective ORPP administration.

Reducing auto insurance rates and implementing the ORPP are key initiatives in the government’s plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history, creating a dynamic, innovative environment where business thrives and building a secure retirement savings plan.

Quick Facts

  • Prior to joining the WSIB, Marshall served in several senior executive roles in both the public and private sectors. In the Government of Canada, Marshall has served as Assistant Auditor General of Canada, Assistant Deputy Minister at Revenue Canada, Assistant Deputy Minister at Employment and Immigration Canada, Deputy Receiver General and Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services. In the private sector he has held the post of Vice Chairman of CIBC responsible for the bank’s mortgage, insurance and credit card businesses as well as global operations. His appointment is for a one-year term with an opportunity to renew for another year.
  • Affordable auto insurance is important to Ontario’s more than 9.5 million drivers who rely on cars to get to work, school and take part in community activities.
  • The ORPP will help close the retirement savings gap for the two out of three Ontarians who do not have a secure workplace pension plan. The ORPP will expand pension coverage to about 3.5 million workers, providing a predictable and reliable stream of retirement income.

Additional Resources

Quotes

Charles Sousa

“David Marshall’s expertise in management and operational planning will help guide our work reducing auto insurance rates for Ontarians. His proven success in improving organizational structure and investment will be a welcome asset in the implementation of the ORPP. These are two important streams of work, which will enable Ontarians to lead more safe and secure lives.”

Charles Sousa

Minister of Finance

Mitzie Hunter

“My goal is to build a secure, sustainable pension plan for Ontario workers. David Marshall’s guidance in setting up the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan will help ensure that we develop the best operational approach possible for the people of this province.”

Mitzie Hunter

Associate Minister of Finance

Distracted driving deaths down in Saskatchewan, but too early to call trend: SGI

Preliminary numbers suggest there’s been a big drop in the number of distracted driving deaths on Saskatchewan roads.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance says 26 people were killed and nearly 600 injured in more than 3,300 collisions related to distracted driving last year.

“The 2014 numbers are still preliminary so that means they could change still a little bit, but we have seen quite a significant decrease since 2013 and even 2012 was one of the worst years that we have seen,” said SGI spokeswoman Kelley Brinkworth.

Non-attentive drivers caused more than 7,500 collisions in 2012 that cost 69 people their lives and caused 2,503 injuries.

Distracted driving often includes cellphone use behind the wheel, but also covers other activities such as eating, applying makeup or reading.

Legislation banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving became law Jan. 1, 2010, in Saskatchewan. The province toughened the rules last year so that drivers caught breaking the law for the second time within one year will have their vehicles seized for up to seven days.

Brinkworth says it’s too early to know if the latest numbers are part of a bigger trend.

“I guess we’ll have to see do we see a further decrease when we get 2015 numbers. For right now, it’s certainly encouraging, but it’s really hard to say are we going to continue to see that decrease,” she said.

Distracted driving was the No. 1 factor in all crashes in Saskatchewan in 2012 and 2013 _ even ahead of impaired driving.

SGI says it is also the third-highest contributing factor in fatal crashes after impaired driving and speeding.

canada-press

 

Insurance in B.C. is said to be among the most expensive in Canada. The lack of competition is touted as the reason.

Read more

Chaos erupts at council meeting over dispute between Uber and taxi companies

Edmonton taxi drivers screamed, chanted and some stripped off their shirts during a contentious meeting of Edmonton city council on September 23, 2015.

At issue was a bylaw that would allow companies such as Uber to legally operate in the city.

Dozens of drivers in the audience began a noisy protest, prompting councillors to leave the chambers and call in the
police.

The United Cabbies Association president then urged calm from the crowd and told taxi drivers in the gallery that there were still options after council’s discussion had ended.

The meeting continued, with some amendments brought forward including the possibility of having lower licence fees for Uber drivers, with Uber paying fees as well.

Afterwards, officials said taxi drivers would plan a meeting in the coming days to discuss their response to decisions made by council, adding that a taxi strike hasn’t been ruled out.

Back in early September, officials said the proposed vehicle-for-hire bylaw would include: allowing companies that have mobile app dispatch services to operate, standardizing requirements for vehicle-for-hire class to include a mandatory criminal record check, proper class of provincial licence, insurance and annual mechanical inspections, and standardizing fees for licences of all classes of vehicles for hire.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Alberta, issued a statement in response to the meeting.

“While some clauses would prevent ridesharing from continuing in Edmonton, Uber remains committed to working with staff and council to build trust and find a path forward.”

The first part of a new vehicle-for-hire bylaw is expected to go to a vote in November, with part two coming in the spring of 2016.

canada-press

 

Canadians who love Uber love Uber a lot!

Canadians who love Uber love Uber a lot!

Canadians who love Uber love Uber a lot, praising the low fares, the ease of hailing a cab with an app, the ability to review drivers’ profiles and ratings before getting in a car and not having to carry cash to pay.

 Yet not everybody loves how the San Francisco-based ride-sharing service is reshaping the transportation sector in the cities where it has set up shop. The UberX service empowers anyone over 21 with licence and a car in “excellent condition” to pick up passengers for money after a background check that can take just three days.

Obviously, licenced cab drivers, fearful of their livelihoods, have been the most vocal opponents, waging protests in cities ranging from Toronto and Montreal to São Paulo and Copenhagen, and launching a class action lawsuit over lost income. But it’s not just taxi drivers who are worried. Critics have a long list of concerns about how Uber does business, whether its practices are fair and whether it’s safe for consumers. The sweet deal passengers think they’re getting may be offset by potential risks down the road.

 “The public is not fully aware of what’s happening and how they’re playing by their own rules,” says Jim Karygiannis, the Toronto city councillor who has been sounding the alarm about Uber since he was elected last year. “Can you be an Uber doctor, can you be an Uber teacher, an Uber chef or do Uber liquor delivery? You can’t make pizza in the back of your car and take it over to anybody who calls you. There are standards you’ve got to meet.”

A new survey by Harris Poll (on behalf of Toronto’s Beck Taxi, so take it with a grain of salt) found that among people who are familiar with UberX, most say it should be subjected to the same requirements as existing taxi services, including police background checks for drivers (87 per cent), commercial insurance that protects drivers (89 per cent) and riders (86 per cent) and regular vehicle maintenance (88 per cent). About 58 per cent of respondents familiar with UberX said the company currently meets these standards.

 The lack of clarity about what Uber is, and what its obligations are, makes it difficult to point fingers and assign responsibility if problems arise. Is it a transportation company? A software company? A booking service? A sophisticated bulletin board? Are the UberX drivers employees or owner/operators? These questions are important because they have implications for insurance, taxation, security, safety standards and quality assurance. About 75 per cent of people surveyed in the Harris Poll viewed Uber as a taxi service more than as a technology company, ride-sharing company or mobile app provider.

Karygiannis suggests Uber benefits from all this fuzziness since it makes it hard for government to apply existing laws. The company has said drivers are responsible for collecting GST or HST, but Karygiannis says Uber does not ensure that happens.

“They have shown no respect for laws, rules and regulations, he wrote in an open letter this month, “and even if we ask for compliance, they will find ways to go around these requests.”

 This alleged lawlessness has prompted Uber opponents in places like Sydney Australia, to try to make citizen’s arrests of Uber drivers, though police officers have shown little interest in getting involved. Of course, sometimes laws are bad and unnecessary, but in many cases they prevent harm from happening and when problems do happen, ensure that victims have proper recourse. “Sooner or later, there’s going to be a really bad incident and this is all going to unravel,” says John Papadakis, a Toronto paralegal and former city council candidate who thinks the city should be cracking down on ride sharing.

Although Uber has claimed that its Canadian drivers are covered by insurance, the company is currently negotiating with Intact, one of Canada’s largest auto insurance providers, to come up with a specific ride-sharing product. To critics, this move suggests that currently available insurance policies don’t cover what Uber is doing.

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