Ontario finance minister struggles to explain missed auto insurance goal

Published: January 26, 2016

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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Ontario’s finance minister admitted that the liberal government knew as early as 2014 that it would fail in its pledge to lower car insurance premiums in the province by 15 per cent in 2015. Charles Sousa was then forced to try to explain why the government continued to stand by the pledge if it knew it would fail, something he was hard-pressed to do.

The government made the promise on 2013, stating it would lower auto insurance in Ontario by 15 per cent by 2015, as part of the pledge the liberal’s cut a deal to NDP support to pass the 2013 budget. The pledge has oft been described as vote buying by critics and last week Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne admitted that the promise was a “stretch goal”.

Opposition said that the idea that it was a “stretch goal” had not been previously stated by the government, which had kept saying the promise was attainable. Before entering a cabinet meeting on Monday, finance minister Sousa claimed that the 2014 election delayed the legislative path the government needed to reach the 15 per cent decrease.

“The moment we came into an election, the moment the delays were occurring, we knew that we were going to have challenges,” he said Monday.

Essentially Sousa admitted that the government knew in the 2014 elections that the pledge was extremely unlikely to be fulfilled. In July and October 2014 (both after the election) Sousa publically stated that the target could be met, offering no hint that it was a “stretch goal”. By 2015 and the end of the pledge period, the government had succeeded in reducing auto insurance rates in Ontario by 6.46 per cent, some way short of 15 per cent.

Critics have hit back, saying the legislative path was only blocked for a month during the elections and that the government still had more than two years to meet its goal. There seems to be a lot of back-peddling from the liberal government and the excuses do not appear to be washing with critics.

“Our reforms have sent rates lower on average over the last two years and there’s more to do to reduce rates by 15 per cent on average,” Sousa said, with no mention of it being a “stretch goal.”

“It’s not at any one point or one date that matters to me, it’s just the ongoing ability for us to reduce the cost of claims to further reduce our insurance premiums,” Sousa said.