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The Doug Ford government released its first budget Thursday, chock-full of populist measures like legalizing tailgating and increasing retail alcohol locations.
Despite the PC’s tough talk of fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets during the election campaign last spring, this budget actually managed to outspend the Liberal’s last one by $5 billion, up from $158 billion to $163 billion.
However, the PC’s do plan on reducing the deficit every year until 2023-24, when they predict to run a “modest surplus.”
Despite the Ford government’s big spending ways, some good was achieved in this budget, particularly in the area of auto insurance.
For many Ontario residents, particularly younger ones, the monthly auto insurance bill is one of their biggest. While we are still in the early days of this government, the proposed changes laid out in this budget provide consumers more choice and hopefully lower premiums on their car insurance.
As Finance Minister Vic Fideli stated, “When it comes to driving, it is clear that Ontario’s auto insurance system is broken – and drivers deserve better. That is why our government is making transformative changes to the province’s auto insurance system.”
This year’s budget lays out the government’s plan to introduce legislation to allow for insurance companies to offer better coverage options based on the driver’s credit history or by agreeing to use preferred providers for auto repair or health care services.
While light on the specifics, which would come in future legislation, the Ford government is planning on reducing red tape and allowing new ways for insurance companies to offer coverage, including a pay as you go option.
If the regulatory burden can be reduced for the insurance companies, this will hopefully lead to more companies entering the market, resulting in more competition and lower prices for Ontario drivers.
Although the effort comes through the way of a Private Members Bill, the PC’s also plan to remove the ability for insurance companies to hike fees based on postal code, which can result in hundreds in savings every year for users in heavily affected areas.
In an effort to streamline the claims system for drivers hurt in auto crashes, the Ford government will be introducing a “Driver Care Card” to help “streamline access to care” by providing the necessary information in a timely fashion.
Ontario will also be teaming up with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) to crack down on insurance fraud and improve the medical assessment process for injured claimants, making auto insurance cheaper and simpler for honest drivers.
While the PC’s plans for auto insurance are in their early stages, if implemented as planned, this series of moderate common sense changes to the confusing and high priced world of auto insurance should result in savings for Ontario drivers.
These savings would be a welcome change for many Ontario drivers as auto insurance rates in the province have been among the highest in Canada for nearly a decade now.