The insurance industry is trying to pass with expedient haste and through the back door — a new law — to eliminate any punishments against the insurance companies for not paying for treatments to the car victims. NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh commented while the proposed bill reduces costs for the insurance industry, there’s no proof that companies will pass on the savings to the consumers. “We know that we need to get at the true profits that the insurance companies are making and we know that the profits are there,” Singh said.
On the legislative floor, ORDER OF THE DAY, March 17, 2014, Jagmeet Singh:
I think this issue was put very well by Alan Shanoff on March 15, 2014, in an article written for the Toronto Sun entitled “Little Benefit for Victims”. He summarizes his response to Bill 171, Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act.
Now, I challenge the Liberal government, I challenge the members on the other side, to show me how this bill, particularly the two components I talked about-how will changing the dispute resolution system from the FSCO arbitrators to the Licence Appeal Tribunal reduce fraud? It won’t. I dare you to show me how it will. You can’t show that. So your title that says “Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act” in that regard is false. I challenge you to show me how reducing the interest rates charged to encourage insurance companies to settle quicker-reducing them from 5% to 1.3%-reduces fraud in any way. I challenge you to show me how that reduces fraud. You won’t be able to show me that. Again, the title “Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act” is false in those two areas, and those are the two biggest components of this bill.
Now, the article written by Mr. Shanoff was quite to the point, and I love the way he summarized this issue. In his final summary of this issue of Bill 171, he writes, “I can see where reduction of interest rates, removal of special awards and shunting cases away from experienced, independent arbitrators would benefit insurance companies.
“But where is the benefit to drivers and accident victims?” I agree wholeheartedly.
Reading from Mr. Shanoff’s article again, if we’re really serious about protecting drivers, Mr. Shanoff writes, “Another real way to protect drivers is to provide arbitrators with the power to penalize insurers that act unreasonably in withholding or delaying penalties.” If arbitrators had a tool of that sort, they could use this to send a message to penalize insurers if they’re acting unreasonably. This power exists right now.
Mr. Shanoff writes: “Actually, arbitrators hearing accident benefit cases currently have that power under the Insurance Act.
“They can award a lump sum of up to 50% of the amount withheld or delayed, along with interest, at the rate of 2% compounded monthly.”
I ask the government again to explain-Bill 171 eliminates this power, gets rid of this ability for the arbitrator to penalize an insurer if they’re withholding a sum or a settlement-how getting rid of this power, getting rid of this ability to penalize the insurers for acting inappropriately, for acting unreasonably, in any way reduces fraud. How does getting rid of this power in any way protect consumers?
Actually, I’m going to quote from the article by Alan Shanoff. Now, I’m quoting the Toronto Sun, so you never really know what you’re going to end up in a day-but Alan actually rightly points out, and he takes exception to, the haste. He says, “But what is most objectionable about Bill 171 is the haste with which it has been introduced-just two weeks following release of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Dispute Resolution System Review by J. Douglas Cunningham, a former Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice”-very well qualified.
“That must be some sort of speed record.”
“But with this haste there has been no opportunity for input by stakeholders.”
Once again, and this seems to be a trend that we have seen in this House, a piece of legislation comes to the floor and there are gaps in that legislation. The promise or the offer is put out, “Well, let’s get this to committee and fix it.” This is something that I do not understand. Why don’t they just bring the legislation, in its full entirety, to the floor of the House so that we could actually have a productive conversation and a debate about Bill 171, in this instance?