By Allison Jones

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Auto insurance rates in Ontario rose in the first three months of 2017, putting the Liberal government further away from its already-missed goal of cutting rates by 15 per cent by August 2015.

Approved rates posted this week by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario show an average increase of 1.24 per cent.

In 2013, the Liberal government promised a 15-per-cent average cut, but after the self-imposed deadline came and went, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted that was what she called a “stretch goal.”

The new approved rates put the average cut since 2013 at a little over seven per cent.

A report by Ontario’s auto insurance adviser quietly posted last week found that the province has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada despite also having one of the lowest levels of accidents and fatalities.

David Marshall found that the average auto insurance premium in Ontario is $1,458, which is almost 55 per cent higher than the average of all other Canadian jurisdictions.

If Ontario’s premiums were closer to the Canadian average of about $930 it would save Ontario drivers almost 40 per cent or about $4 billion a year, he wrote.

The system favours cash settlements in lieu of care, Marshall found. Sprains and strains the majority of claims often take more than a year to settle and about one-third of overall benefit costs goes toward competing expert opinions, lawyers’ fees and insurer costs to defend claims instead of going to treatment, he wrote.

Marshall’s recommendations include adopting a “care not cash” approach, exploring better ways to care for people who are catastrophically injured and making lawyers’ contingency fees more transparent.

The government says it will consult with stakeholders on the recommendations.

It has already lowered the maximum interest rate that an insurer can charge for monthly auto premium payments, prohibited minor at-fault accidents from boosting premiums and introduced a winter tire discount.

 

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