High auto insurance rates driving us down the wrong path

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

A recurring email issue I’ve received over the past two years, and in the latter part of the 23 years I worked for MPP Toby Barrett, is high automobile insurance rates.

Typically, the emails are from people who have just experienced an unprecedented increase despite no claims. It impacts individuals, businesses, and, frankly, anyone who drives.

I hear from young people who are just starting out in life and need a car to get to work. It’s not uncommon for a new driver to pay one-year insurance premiums similar to the cost they paid for the vehicle, and most pay premiums greater than 25 per cent of the vehicle cost. Businesses that have not had claims contact my office when they see a considerable increase, or worse yet, their carrier drops them. Tow truck drivers and snowplow operators fall into this category.

My recourse is to contact the Minister of Finance’s office on behalf of the constituent. The ministry responds by touting the many carrier options available and furnishing me with government achievements supposedly helping with insurance rates – more on that in a minute.

I take exception with the suggestion consumers need to shop around. First, most people do shop around.  Sometimes, they find an online company that offers a better price and cuts out the local brokers. These companies may look good on paper, but I hear there are sometimes issues when a claim is made. And online providers don’t contribute to our communities like brokers and farm mutuals do. Locally, our brokers and mutuals support sports teams and events and belong to other services like a Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade.

Getting back to the rates, I recall a presentation from an insurance industry group that was made more than 10 years ago, where they identified fraud in a certain GTA city as a factor in higher premiums. That same city is often mentioned when discussions about rates based on geography take place, with the MPP from that area invariably saying their rates shouldn’t be higher. I don’t think it’s fair for you – the people of Haldimand-Norfolk – to pay for problems elsewhere in the province.

Then there is the issue of paying higher prices for vehicles because they are favoured targets by thieves. That has been taken to a whole new level with premiums for certain models. ­­ 

While you are reading this, a vehicle is being stolen. In fact, a vehicle is stolen every 14 minutes in Ontario—unacceptable.

We know owning a vehicle in rural Ontario is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. For young people, it’s a rite of passage to adulthood and gives them a sense of freedom. Insurance rates are making this necessity and rite of passage nearly impossible.

Last week, the government announced it would suspend licenses for those convicted of auto theft. Crooks don’t follow the law. 

One writer to my office said: “That is the most ludicrous measure of a government I have ever seen. These perpetrators don’t care about a license. They are criminals and should be locked up where they can’t drive.” Indeed.

Police can at times track a vehicle’s location using the Sirius radio system, however I have heard the process is cumbersome for law enforcement. Law makers should re-examine this and remove the red tape once a vehicle is reported stolen. 

During a recent meeting with an industry group, we discussed GPS tracking device embedded in the engine. 

The Ontario driving public needs real and actionable government measures that will see a bite taken out of insurance rates.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk