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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No Fixed Address: What’s the deal with the 1991 ‘loophole?’ CBC News Toronto
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.
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.
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 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).
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, 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..
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.”
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.
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.”
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 Michael Tulloch’s report into police oversight in Ontario makes 129 recommendations including call for release of all future and past Special Investigations Unit (SIU) director’s reports
Crucial information about investigations into deaths involving officers in Ontario will soon be routinely disclosed to the public following the release Thursday of a sweeping report on police oversight.
Ontario will also now require police watchdogs to begin collecting demographic data, including statistics on race, ethnicity and Indigenous status, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced shortly after the release of the much-anticipated Independent Police Oversight Review, led by Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch.
“I’ve seen a great appetite for change in the province,” Tulloch told a packed conference room at a downtown hotel Thursday afternoon.
“The people of Ontario are entitled and deserve to know that, when it comes to the operation of police services in the province, justice is not only done, but is seen to be done.”
Tulloch’s report makes 129 recommendations to improve police oversight in Ontario. These range from measures to increase transparency to the creation of a new professional policing college to the drafting of special watchdog legislation separate from the province’s Police Services Act.
Calling the report “extremely thoughtful,” Naqvi committed to taking immediate action on key elements of the report — “our work begins today,” he said — although he did not commit to the wholesale implementation of Tulloch’s report.
Naqvi said he would move on a central recommendation: the call for the release of past and future Special Investigations Unit (SIU) director’s reports detailing cases where the watchdog has deemed no criminal charges should be laid.
However, the release comes with the significant caveat that no identifying information about officers or witnesses be released.
On the “polarizing” issue of naming officers who used lethal force, Tulloch and the review team determined the release of the officer’s name was not necessary.
“Releasing the officer’s name would not make the SIU investigation any better. And it would not improve transparency in a meaningful way. That is, it would not make it any easier to understand what the SIU did to investigate, or why the SIU did not lay charges,” the report states.
That decision drew significant criticism from rights’ groups Thursday, including from members of Black Lives Matter Toronto, whose protests of shootings of black people involving police helped prompt Tulloch’s government-commissioned review last spring.
Calling the decision to release all SIU director’s reports a “very, very positive step in the right direction,” Pascale Diverlus, a co-founder of the group, said she is, nonetheless, upset the names of officers won’t be routinely disclosed, saying they should be released in every case.
Donardo Jones, director of legal services with the African Canadian Legal Clinic, was equally disappointed, saying he doesn’t understand why the consideration for possible retaliation against officers was given so much weight — particularly when the names of officers will ultimately come out at a coroner’s inquest.
“The fact that police are being given special recognition, I think is almost a double standard,” he said. “Police are no exception; their job doesn’t put them in some kind of sacred space.”
Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner Brian Beamish has previously said officers’ names may be disclosed in “circumstances of significant public interest,” despite government claims they are protected under freedom of information and privacy legislation.
Tulloch’s report says the calls for releasing officer names is a “by-product” of public mistrust of police oversight, caused in large part by a lack of transparency.
He, therefore, recommends the watchdog must begin publicly releasing, on its website, the SIU director’s report, a document that currently can only be seen by Ontario’s attorney general. The report must contain a “detailed narrative of the event,” the reasons for the director’s decision, any audio, photo or video evidence, and more.
“The public needs to know whether the SIU is doing the job it is supposed to be doing,” the report states.
Tulloch also called for the release of all previous director’s reports into police-involved deaths — prioritizing cases where no coroner’s inquest was held — but says the names of officers and witnesses must be withheld.
Naqvi committed to releasing those past reports, saying the timeline for the release from 2005 to today is December, and that, by summer, 2018 the government will release reports from 1990 to 2004.
Answering fervent calls from rights groups, including the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the report recommends oversight agencies begin collecting demographic data, including data related to gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity, mental health status, disability and indigenous status. Advisory committees should be established to advise the agencies on the best practices of data collection, it recommends.
Tulloch said Thursday that the data was vital for evidence-based policy and decision-making, accountability and transparency, and, if used properly, it may build public confidence in policing and police oversight.
University of Toronto criminology professor Scot Wortley praised Tulloch for the recommendation. The lack of data has made attempting to research racial disparities in the justice system “exceedingly difficult,” Wortley said.
“In many ways, I think the lack of data has contributed to the crisis in confidence that the justice system has experienced over the last few years,” Wortley said in an interview.
“Rightly or wrongly, it can give the impression that the system has something to hide, and I think this (recommendation) will go a long way toward helping discovering disparities and addressing them.”
In a brief statement issued after the report’s release, SIU director Tony Loparco said the agency welcomed the review, but will need time to consider the contents carefully.
“That being said, I am committing the SIU to take the steps required to implement the recommendations that may be legislated, with the increased resources Mr. Justice Tulloch has deemed necessary to conduct civilian oversight properly,” Loparco said.
Tulloch recommends the creation of a regulatory body for police officers to create a culture of professionalism, just as many other professions in Ontario, such as doctors, lawyers and teachers, have in place.
Policing, Tulloch said, “should be seen as a distinguished profession.”
He recommends that the College of Policing develop a “curriculum for a professional degree in policing,” which would incorporate areas such as mental health, domestic abuse, the serving of vulnerable communities, and anti-racism and equity studies.
The college would set ethical and professional standards for the job of police officer, and should work to create a police culture “that is more progressive and inclusive,” describing the traditional culture as “white, male and hyper-masculine.”
While Tulloch’s review received praise for being a step in the right direction, many stressed the importance of moving from talk to action.
“The million-dollar question is whether the government will act on the report,” said former SIU director André Marin, who, in his subsequent role as Ontario ombudsman, prepared two reports on the SIU.
“This report is a courageous and important step forward towards restoring the public’s confidence in our police. It is critical for these recommendations to be implemented as soon as possible,” said Daniel Brown, a Toronto director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.
Tulloch’s review was commissioned by the Liberal government last spring, amid growing controversy about police use of force and mounting public pressure for greater transparency from police watchdogs, including the SIU.
The review, tasked with “enhancing the transparency and accountability” of Ontario’s police oversight bodies, was struck after weeks of protest sparked by the SIU’s decision to clear an unnamed Toronto police officer in the July 2015 death of Andrew Loku, a mentally ill South Sudanese man shot dead in the hallway of his apartment building.
The SIU ruled the officer’s lethal force was justified because Loku was advancing on police while holding a hammer.
The watchdog did not explain how investigators weighed evidence from an eye witness who said Loku did not pose a threat at the time.
The decision prompted a 15-day camp-out by Black Lives Matter Toronto outside police headquarters.
Demonstrators demanded the name of the officer who shot Loku and more information about the incident.
Tulloch also recommends the SIU, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) have their own legislation, separate from Ontario’s Police Services Act. “It could confirm their importance and their independence,” the report says.
“The recommendations for the OIPRD in the report would, if implemented and properly resourced, increase the transparency and accountability of the complaints system,” said Gerry McNeilly, independent police review director.
Karyn Greenwood-Graham, whose son Trevor Grahamwas killed by Waterloo police in 2007 and who runs a group for families affected by fatal police incidents, commended Tulloch for “reminding the Ministry of the Attorney General of what it’s supposed to be doing.”
“I really would like to thank Justice Tulloch. The affected families of police homicide were heard, they were valued, and were treated very well in this whole process,” she said.
Joanne MacIsaac, whose brother Michael was shot and killed by Durham policein December 2013, said she was especially pleased that Naqvi is open to discussing legal funding for families at coroner’s inquests. An inquest into Michael’s death is set to begin in July, and MacIsaac and her family are looking to meet with the attorney general soon to discuss legal aid coverage.
“We sit around in these coroner meetings and the police officer has a lawyer there, the police service has a lawyer, the coroner has the Crown.
“We’re the only people who don’t have any funding for a lawyer,” MacIsaac said.
As for the recommendation to not name officers cleared of criminal wrongdoing, MacIsaac called the logic “silly,” as the names will eventually be released at the coroner’s inquest.
“Give us the names. Don’t make us wait,” she said.
Some critics argued that Tulloch did not go far enough in his recommendations on the participation of the subject officer in an SIU investigation.
While the judge recommended that the officer be compelled to turn over his or her notes that were drafted prior to SIU involvement, Tulloch did not suggest that the officer should also be compelled to give investigators an interview.
The rationale has always been that a subject officer has the same right to silence enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as anyone else under criminal investigation, but observers have said it’s time to change that and let the courts decide whether this right actually applies to a police officer under investigation for actions taken while on the job.
“I recognize there’s a good argument that officers have the same Charter rights that you and I do,” said lawyer and former SIU director Howard Morton, who said the lack of recommendations on the issue was a disappointment.
“But I’ve always felt that they do not have the same Charter rights because they are not only public servants, they are public servants of the highest order, they are authorized to use deadly force, and, to say that an officer should not be required to subject herself or himself to an SIU interview, is simply wrong.”
Lawyer Peter Rosenthal, who has represented many families of people killed by police, shared Morton’s disappointment.
“I would recommend that (the subject officer) be required to give a statement, and then the courts would have the possibility of determining what, if any, use that statement would be.”
Morton said the recommendation that officers would be open to being charged with an offence for failure to cooperate with the SIU was “wonderful,” saying he often struggled as SIU director in the mid-1990s in securing cooperation. He did say, however, that he believes this has improved.
Failure to cooperate “should be an offence. The only way you can ensure cooperation is if there’s a penalty for failing to do so,” Rosenthal added.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack told the Star the duty to cooperate with an SIU investigation has always existed, “and our officers have always cooperated fully with the investigators.”
Bruce Chapman, president of the Police Association of Ontario, said in a statement Thursday that Tulloch’s report “confirms what police officers have known for a long time: Ontario has a rigorous police accountability system in place.”
“No other jurisdiction in North America has more oversight than Ontario does, and we are pleased that we do . . . as it protects both the public and police officers.”