Tories try to cater to drivers with measures in election budget

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, April 28, 2022 4:14PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 28, 2022 5:29PM EDT

TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives want to tweak auto insurance rules to allow more choice, ensure fairness and crack down on fraud.

The broad plans are outlined in the government’s annual budget tabled Thursday, a document that doubles as the Tory platform for the spring election campaign expected to kick off next week.

The auto insurance proposal is one of several budget goodies aimed at drivers, many of which had been previously announced and include a move to cancel licence plate fees and send rebates to drivers who already paid for them. Thursday’s budget revealed those rebates will cost the government $1.8 billion this year.

The Tories said that if re-elected in June, they would introduce changes that “over time would provide consumers with more options” when buying auto insurance.

Officials said that would involve insurance plans that are more customized to individual drivers’ usage.

The budget also proposes making legislative amendments that would require insurers to regularly provide fraud information to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario.

The government says the change would hold insurers accountable for tracking and reporting fraud, and it’s also looking into implementing a fraud reporting tool and ways to remove identified “fraudsters” from provider lists.

The regulatory authority is also developing a new framework to ensure “fairness” in auto insurance rates that would replace current guidance on “territorial rating” and other regulatory frameworks that the government says are outdated.

That’s an issue also highlighted by the Ontario New Democrats in their recently released election platform, which promises to “explore every avenue” to bring down insurance rates.

The NDP also wants to tackle “postal code discrimination” which sees residents paying rates based on where they live.

Promises related to highway infrastructure and driver tolls are another main aspect of the incumbent Tories’ measures targeting drivers.

The budget includes a new promise to widen Highway 401 in eastern Ontario and build a new bridge over the Welland Canal on the Queen Elizabeth Way. Those projects are included in a total planned $21.5 billion in highway-related spending over the next decade.

The budget also includes plans for the long-promised Toronto-area Bradford Bypass and Highway 413 highways, as well as a reconstructed 21.4-kilometre stretch of Highway 101 in northern Ontario.

The Tories have also promised to remove tolls on Highways 412 and 418.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2022.