Ontario has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada and their rising again

Update: see post of April 15, 2017 Ontario roads safest in country but drivers pay the highest premiums, new report says

A 24K gold bar, weighing approximately 28 pounds. If you live and drive in Ontario, you should have an extra one of these tucked away to pay for the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada. Ontario drivers pay an average insurance premium of $1,458 per vehicle, which adds up to $10 billion a year.  photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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Provincial watchdog says approved rates in the first quarter rose on average by 1.24 per cent.

Auto insurance rates in Ontario rose in the first months of 2017, just as a government-commissioned report called the system one of the least effective in Canada.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario says approved rates in the first quarter increased on average by 1.24 per cent.

In 2013, the Liberal government promised a 15-per-cent average cut by August 2015, but after that deadline came and went, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted that was what she called a “stretch goal.”

The new approved rates put the government even further away from that already missed target, with the average cut since 2013 now a little over 7 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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‘What does it mean for me?’ Ontario Tenants, landlords full of questions about new rent control rules

Update:

New rent control rules announced Thursday come after weeks of increased pressure on the government in light of stories about massive rent increases people, many featured as part the CBC Toronto series ‘No Fixed Address.’

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Rent control announcement promises protection for tenants living in units built after 1991

The provincial government’s announcement Thursday that it is extending rent control to all units built after 1991 has left many tenants and landlords with questions, many of which weren’t answered by the Ontario Fair Housing Plan.

Audience members reached out to CBC Toronto with those queries, so we put them to the ministry in an attempt to clarify the new rules in different scenarios.

Condo’s continue to spring up in the downtown core. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Rent increase notice came before April 20

Joshua and his girlfriend got a notice on April 15 that their rent would be going up $300/month as of August 1. Will they have to pay?

Any notices of rent increases given before April 20 would fall under previous rules, meaning all units built after 1991 would not be subject to rent control. Since Joshua received his notice on April 15, his landlord has the right to raise his rent above the rate increase guideline.


Rent increase notice came on April 20

Susan received a notice from her landlord on April 20 — the same day the government announced new rules — saying her $1,500/month rent would be going up $300 in 90 days. What can she do?

The government’s new legislation, which is likely to pass considering the Liberals have a majority, enacts the rent control change as of April 20. This means any above-guideline increases made on or after April 20 would be against the law. For 2017, the increase is set at 1.5 per cent.

She could report her landlord to the Landlord and Tenant Board, but the landlord could also apply to the board for an exception if certain criteria are met.

Toronto condo apartment rent

Landlord gives eviction notice for ‘personal use’

Bob is Laura’s landlord. He tells Laura he wants to use his condo for himself and serves her with an eviction notice. The new law says tenants will be “adequately compensated” if this happens. What does this mean for Laura?

A ministry spokesperson says this information will be outlined when the government introduces the legislation, which will happen on Monday. Initial debates on the legislation are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. So right now, it’s unclear how much Bob would have to pay Laura.


Landlord’s hydro bills surpass inflation

Mary is a landlord and has seen her hydro and utility bills jump more than the rate of inflation. With rent increases now staying in line with inflation, what options does she have for raising her tenant’s rent?

As before, Mary will be able to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an above-guideline increase. She will still have to wait 12 months between increases and give 90 days written notice.

Landlords can apply if there are unusually high increases in property taxes or utility costs. But under the new law, Mary will not be able to apply for an above-guideline increase if any elevator work orders in her building are outstanding.


Rental ‘bidding war’

Mike wants to lease his condo at $1,700/month. Seven people submit rental applications, but Kevin offers Mike $1,800/month. Does Kevin get the condo?

There are no provisions in the Ontario Fair Housing Plan to stop rental bidding wars from happening. With the vacancy rate sitting at one per cent in Toronto, supply is still the lowest it’s been in seven years — meaning rental bidding wars are likely to keep happening and Mike can lease his condo to whoever he wants.

Condo vacancy

Landlord ups rent between tenants

Sarah decides to move out of her $1,900/month lease after one-year. Her landlord decides she’s going to list the condo at $2,700/month on MLS. Is she allowed to do this?

Landlords can increase the rent by any amount they wish in between tenants. There is nothing in Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan that protects rental rates between leases.


Seniors-only building increase

Lilian has a fixed income and lives in a seniors-only residence built in 1995. Her rent increases $100 every year, which is above the rental rate increase guideline. Is she protected under the new proposed legislation?

The government’s plan applies to all “private rental units” in Ontario, which are outlined by the Residential Tenancies Act. Not covered by the act are nursing homes, educational accommodations (dorms) and non-profit co-op housing — to name a few. But “most retirement homes” are covered by the act. However, because Lilian’s residence was built after 1991, she would have been exempt from rent control prior to April 20.

Poster of video clip


Landlord maintenance fees go up

Sam owns three condos in the same building and rents them out. After a flood, his maintenance fees have shot up exponentially. What can he do to recoup some of his costs from his tenants?

Sam can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an above-guideline rent increase for capital expenses, which include major repairs or renovations that are not part of normal maintenance.

The board will schedule a hearing. The tenants are allowed to challenge their landlord’s application at the hearing. For capital expenses, the board can allow a landlord to increase rent by up to three per cent above the guideline for three years in a row. There is no limit to increases allowed because of taxes and utilities.

What questions do you have about the new Ontario Fair Housing Plan? Email us.

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Ontario roads safest in country but drivers pay the highest premiums, new report says

Update:

Intact Insurance. Private Ontario Automobile Insurance companies rack in the profits in the Province of Ontario. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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Despite safer roads, Ontario premiums are 24% higher than Alberta’s and 100% higher than Quebec’s

A new comprehensive review of the auto insurance industry in this province has found that while Ontario’s roads are among the safest in North America, Ontario drivers pay the highest premiums in the country.

The report, written by former Workplace Safety and Insurance Board CEO David Marshall and released on April 11, found that Ontario drivers pay an average insurance premium of $1,458 per vehicle, which adds up to $10 billion a year.

Yet the report, called Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered: A Review of the Auto Insurance System in Ontario, found that while premiums here are well above the national average of $930, the province’s roads are the safest in the country.

That’s no surprise to Nesakan Thavarajah and his girlfriend Sirini Wijesekera. The two recent grads can’t afford to cover their own car insurance premiums so they are still listed as occasional drivers under their parents’ plans.

“So many people are reluctant to go through insurance if something does happen because they’re scared their premiums will go up,” said Thavarajah.

Nesakan Thavarajah & Sirini Wijesekera

Nesakan Thavarajah and his girlfriend Sirini Wijesekera. The two recent grads can’t afford to cover their own car insurance premiums, so they are still listed as occasional drivers under their parents’ plans. (Pelin Sidk (CBC)

He said he recently had a stone chip on his windshield and asked his insurance agent if he should make a claim.

“She told me, ‘You know you can, but off the record I’m telling you don’t do it because it’ll make your premiums go up,'” Thavarajah said.

In 2013, Ontario’s injury rate (62.1 per 10,000 licensed drivers) was the lowest in Canada and the province’s fatality rate (0.54 per 10,000 licensed drivers) was the second lowest in all of North America.

That’s not reflected in premiums that are 24 per cent higher than Alberta’s ($1,179) and double what drivers in Quebec pay ($724).

David Marshall

Former Workplace Safety and Insurance Board CEO David Marshall’s report, called Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered: A Review of the Auto Insurance System in Ontario, was released Apr. 11. (Canadian Underwriter)

Marshall wrote that despite consistent reductions in automobile accidents, especially serious ones, the cost of claims have consistently risen, thanks to “one of the least effective insurance systems in Canada.”

Steve Kee, a spokesperson with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said Marshall’s report is a welcome first step in improving the insurance system in the province, which has a hybrid structure: it’s a government-mandated service delivered by private industry.

The report recommended that Ontario steer clear of switching to a government-run auto insurance system.

‘A lot of medical costs and costs to lawyers’

“We have a regulated market in terms of  the product we sell, delivered by private insurers. It’s worked well and will continue to serve Ontario drivers,” said Kee.

As for the high cost to drivers, Kee said it’s a complicated system with many moving parts.

“Claims costs are high and there are a lot of people that are involved in the process and I don’t know why claims costs are as high in Ontario as they are. There are a lot of medical costs and costs to lawyers,” said Kee.

“We’ve seen a reduction in collisions, roads are safe in Ontario and cars are safer to drive so we’d like to see claims costs come down as well.”

Marshall wrote that there is a significant amount of leakage of funds from the system from claims totaling about $1.4 billion a year, with much of those insurance benefits not going directly to those involved in accidents.

Steve Kee

Steve Kee, spokesperson for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said Marshall’s report is a welcome first step in improving the insurance system in the province, which has a hybrid structure: government-mandated service delivered by private industry. (CBC)

“Insurers shared with me that it is taking them over a year to close even the simplest claims [and] accident victims are having a difficult time getting what they perceive to be fair benefits,” wrote Marshall.

He also points out that “one out of three accident-benefits claims goes into a dispute resolution system.”

Marshall recommends that, “Insurers should make sure that seriously injured persons are given top priority and do not need to hire lawyers or other professionals to get their entitlement.”

Lawyers an ‘essential part’ of the system

Personal injury lawyer Mike Smitiuch says the problems with the insurance system shouldn’t be blamed on the province’s lawyers.

“Lawyers play an essential part in holding insurers accountable and obtaining justice for individuals, so to paint all lawyers with the same brush is I think a mistake and dangerous to do,” said Smitiuch.

“Lawyers are being blamed for driving up costs, but lawyers are essential because insurers are denying and forcing [customers] to prove why they need the benefits.”

For example, Marshall points out that the determination of whether or not an accident victim fits what’s known as the catastrophic injury definition is extremely important, since the benefits payable to an accident victim judged to fit that category are many times higher — $1 million vs. $65,000..

 Mike Smitiuch

Personal injury lawyer Mike Smitiuch says the problems with the insurance system shouldn’t be blamed on the province’s lawyers. (CBC)

Tens of thousands of dollars — in the range of $15,000 to $20,000 — are spent by the claimant and the insurer on medical reports to arrive at or challenge a determination.

“The process to access benefits is so complex, the accident victim often hires a lawyer in order to properly access them. What can happen then, is the accident victim may ultimately find themselves with significantly less than the $1-million benefit to which they were entitled, since this amount would be partially reduced by the cost of medical exams and legal fees,” writes Marshall.

The report recommends the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care develop a service to assess the costs for lifetime management of care for seriously injured accident victims.

But Smitiuch says that was tried before.

“Independent evaluators in hospitals to mediate disputes was an utter failure,” he said. “It reminds me of that movie Groundhog Day. We’re going back to past and living it over and over again.”

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Trudeau government to introduce strongest impaired-driving legislation in the world

Update:

The Parliment Building’s Centre Block. The Trudeau government is introducing legislation which will fundamentally change the legal rights of driver’s of motor vehicles in Canada. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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Police officers will now be able to demand a breathalyzer sample from any driver they lawfully stop. A drug-impaired driver could face up to 10 years if convicted. New laws will also eliminate, or restrict, common defences used by drivers facing impaired-driving charges in court.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced major changes to the country’s impaired driving laws Thursday, including provisions that will allow for mandatory roadside alcohol screening and new criminal offences for driving while high.
< The legislation, introduced concurrently with the government's cannabis legalization bill, will allow police to demand a driver provide an “oral fluid sample” — saliva — if they suspect a driver is drug impaired. A positive reading could lead to further testing, including a blood test, to determine whether a criminal offence has been committed.

Three new drug-related offences will be also be created for drivers who have consumed drugs within two hours of driving. A driver who is found to have two nanograms but less than five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood could face a maximum fine of up to $1,000 (THC is the primary psychoactive found in cannabis).

A driver who has a blood level of more than five nanograms of THC, or has been drinking alcohol and smoking pot at the same time, will face a fine and the possibility of jail time. In more serious cases, a drug-impaired driver could face up to 10 years if convicted.

The government did not specify which drug testing device it would recommend police use for enforcement, but other jurisdictions use the DrugWipe system, which can detect traces of cannabis, opiates, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamines (MDMA, ecstasy), benzodiazepines and ketamine.

‘New and stronger laws’

“Impaired driving is the leading cause of criminal death and injury in Canada,” Liberal MP Bill Blair, the government’s pot legalization czar, said Thursday in announcing the legislation. “In order to further protect Canadians, our government has committed to creating new and stronger laws to punish more severely those who drive while impaired by cannabis, alcohol and other drugs.”

Under the new legislation, any driver lawfully pulled over can be subjected to a breathlyzer test. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

“This bill, if its passes, will be one of strongest impaired-driving pieces of legislation in the world and I’m very proud of that,” Wilson-Raybould added.

However, by comparison, the European Union has a limit of just one nanogram of THC, and the United Kingdom has a limit of two nanograms. Australia and many U.S. states have zero tolerance, which effectively criminalizes driving with any detectable level of prohibited drugs in one’s body.

Some researchers, including those at the U.S.-based National Institute on Drug Abuse, have suggested there is simply no adequate way to measure THC levels, or to determine just how drugged a person is in a roadside test.

Those concerns were shared by Conservative leadership contender Erin O’Toole.

“Public safety officials at all levels of government have outstanding concerns about how to implement marijuana legislation and how to manage the costs associated with it. Of great concern, [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau has not addressed the fact that there are no proven, reliable tests yet available for determining impairment from marijuana use,” he said in a statement.

Mandatory alcohol breathalyzer testing

Police officers will also now be able to demand a breathalyzer sample from any driver they lawfully stop. Previously, a test could only be administered if an officer had “reasonable suspicion” that a driver was impaired by alcohol.

The government is making this change because its research shows many impaired drivers are able to escape detection at check stops. It is also aimed at reducing legal action over whether an officer actually had “reasonable suspicion” to ask a driver to blow on a device for a blood alcohol content reading.

The changes are part of the government’s efforts to “repeal and replace” all transportation-related offences in the Criminal Code, with “a modern, simplified and coherent structure,” according to literature provided by Health Canada.

“I will, as I do with all justice pieces of legislation, be tabling a charter statement. I am confident of constitutionality of mandatory roadside testing,” Wilson-Raybould said. “This is not a device or a tool that doesn’t exist in other places in the world. In fact, mandatory roadside testing in many countries has significantly reduced the number of deaths on highways. I think that is of paramount concern,” she said.

Loopholes to be closed

Under the new law, many more driver’s will be incarcerated for longer periods of time.

New laws will also eliminate, or restrict, common defences used by drivers facing impaired-driving charges in court.

Currently, drivers can avoid fines or a criminal conviction by claiming they consumed alcohol just before or during driving, and thus were not over the legal limit at the time they were driving because the alcohol was not yet fully absorbed. They can claim it was only later, at the time of testing, that they reached an illegal blood alcohol concentration.

The government said, in a background document distributed to reporters, that it would close that loophole by changing the timeframe for blowing “over 80” from “at the time of driving” to within two hours of driving.

Over 80 refers to a blood alcohol limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitre of blood, or as it is commonly known, .08 blood alcohol concentration.

The justice minister also announced changes to the provincial interlock programs, a system of in-car alcohol breath screening devices that prevent a vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected.

Currently, a first-time offender has to wait a year before being admitted to an ignition interlock program in order to be able to drive again.

The proposed legislation would reduce the time offenders must wait before they can return to driving; there would be no wait for a first offence, three months for a second offence and six months for a subsequent offence.

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Black man racially profiled by T.O. cop: Courts

Update:

Toronto Police Cruiser. In the original decision, Justice F.L. Myers awarded Elmardy $27,000 in compensation. Elmardy appealed and a panel of three justices increased compensation from $27,000 to $80,000 and $20,000 in costs.  photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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He was guilty only of Walking While Black.

Mutaz Elmardy, 38, was on his way home from prayers, just minding his own business as he walked along Shuter St. on a cold winter’s night in January 2011. Stopped by police, he refused their demand to take his hands out of his pockets. And for that, he was punched twice in the face, unlawfully searched and then left handcuffed on the ice for almost half an hour in the -10C cold.

The Sudanese refugee claimed he’d been racially profiled and sued Const. Andrew Pak and the police services board for $75,000. In 2015, Justice F.L. Myers awarded Elmardy $27,000 in compensation, finding police had no legal justification for stopping or punching him. But the judge didn’t agree the misconduct was racially motivated.

For Elmardy, though, that was the crux of his complaint. So he appealed — and won.

The Supreme Court has decided that any compensation from a Charter breach must be against the Toronto Police Services Board, not constable Andrew Pak who breached Mutaz Elmardy’s Charter rights by his actions, as a Toronto police officer. The taxpayers of Toronto, not constable Pak, will pay for the compensation ordered by the court.  Apparently, officer Pak walks away, unscathed and without a blemish on his personnel file. photo by fightyourtickets.ca.

In a blistering decision against Toronto Police, the Divisional Court has just tripled Elmardy’s damages to $80,000 and awarded him $20,000 in costs after finding he was carded only because he was a black man.

“Racial profiling has a serious impact on the credibility and effectiveness of our police services. It has  led to distrust and injustice. It must stop,” wrote Justice Harriet Sachs on behalf of the three-judge panel.

Elmardy “was an innocent man who had fled his country looking for a society in which his rights would be respected. Instead of finding the respect to which he is entitled, he was subjected to humiliating, violent and oppressive behaviour from one of this city’s police officers, all because of the colour of his skin.”

And when questioned about their behaviour, “the police officers were found to have lied to the Court,” she wrote.

The cops testified they had a “hunch” Elmardy was violating his bail and carrying a gun — with no evidence whatsoever. They assumed he must be a guilty criminal, the court said, simply because he was black. “This is the essence of racial profiling.”

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, commonly referred to as “the Charter“. There are three purposes that Charter damages may serve: compensation, vindication and deterrence. The court found that the conduct of the Toronto Police Services violated Elmardy’s Charter rights under sections 8,9,10(a) & (b). As a result, the court awarded Elmardy $50,000.00.

And enough is enough.

For breaching his Charter rights, the court decided to substantially increase Elmardy’s award from $9,000 to $50,000 “to vindicate society’s interest in having a police service comprised of officers who do not brutalize its citizens because of the colour of their skin and that sends the message to that service that this conduct must stop. The courts and others have already made statements about the serious, wrongful nature of this type of conduct. Yet it continues to occur.”

The court also increased the punitive damages against the police officer from $18,000 to $25,000 to “punish and deter him for his misconduct” — but acknowledged the police services board will likely pay it for him. Elmardy was also awarded $5,000 for his physical injuries and $20,000 for his legal costs.

Pak was never disciplined and remains on the job. Elmardy had lodged a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director but an investigation found his complaints couldn’t be substantiated. Given this scathing decision, is he still in the clear?

“The matter has been turned over to Profession

al Standards for investigation,” said police spokesman Meaghan Gray, declining to comment further.

Elmardy could have walked away with his $27,000 two years ago. But the publicity shy man, now a Canadian citizen, was determined to appeal and prove that racism was behind the unlawful detention and beating he suffered that cold winter night.

“In his view it was all about being racially profiled,” said his lawyer Andrew MacDonald. “It was a big letdown for him at the trial. I think now, with what’s happened here, he has really been vindicated and the truth has come out.”

See SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE – ONTARIO’s Justice F.L. Myers J. decision on costs.

Justice F. L. Myers stated in his May 7, 2015 decision (Elmardy v. Toronto Police Services Board, 2015 ONSC 2952) “The defendants rely on s.25 of the Criminal Code of Canada, R.S.C. 1985, c.C-46, to protect Constable Pak for his use of force.  However, that section does not apply where, as here, the peace officer is found to have been acting unlawfully and outside the proper scope of executing his duties.”. photo by fightyourtickets.ca.

 

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