Every year around this time, Ontarians gather around the radio (old school) or TV and tune in the CTV, CBC, Global or CP24 to listen to the Premier or Minister of Finance go through the details of the provincial budget.
The government in power will make grandiose promises like cutting spending, while at the same time providing more in services. Other promises like slashing taxes, but at the same time collecting MORE tax dollars and making better use of those tax dollars. How about paying less in compensation but demanding more work of civil servants. Or attracting better talent but offering less in salary and benefits compared to other sectors. All of these promises is just a bunch of sucking and blowing. Ever trying sucking and blowing at the same time? Go ahead. Give it a try. Still haven't found a person able to do it. If you're that lucky person, please let me know.
At the end of the day, the Toronto Injury Law Blog always comes back to car accidents and personal injury claims. The budget usually has an impact on how personal injury cases run.
It was not too long ago (September 1, 2010) that the Ontario Liberal Government under Dalton McGuinty introduced the Minor Injury Guideline which capped medical and rehabilitative benefits following a car accident for all Ontario drivers to just $3,500 for soft tissue claims. Under the same budget, then Finance Minister from Windsor ON Dwight Duncan also slashed benefits from $100,000 in half, down to $50,000. Minister Duncan also eliminated the $250/week caregiver benefit; slashed Attendant Care Benefits in half from $72,000 down to $36,000 over two years; and introduced a requirement that all attendant care benefits be an "incurred expense". This means that somebody who is out of a job on account of being injured from a car crash has to pay money out of their own pocket to get care instead of the insurance company paying for said care. If you can't afford to pay for your care, then you won't get reimbursed. At times it makes me wonder why people are required to pay for insurance in the first place if they make it so difficult to collect.
Which brings me to my next point. Following these introductions to the car insurance regime in 2010, insurers have paid out significantly less per car accident claim in the province of Ontario. In Toronto alone, drivers have seen significant increases in their insurance premiums over the past two years, but are less to recover in accident benefits.
Kathleen Wynne's Liberals want to stay in power. Tim Hudak's Conservatives refuse to support the budget, notwithstanding the fact that they aren't even going to read the budget document itself. I'm not going to defend the Liberals, but I would want my local MPP to consider all of the information available to him/her in order for them to make an informed decision. Refusing to read a document, or coming out and saying that regardless of what the budget says, that we will not support it is being willfully blind, arrogant and ignorant. I'm not saying that the Conservatives have to support the budget. Go ahead and reject it. But at least read the darn document before you decide what you're going to do. Who knows. There might be a good idea in there which you can use to build your platform on. You might find some common ground so a bit of progress can be made instead of the log jam we see every day at Queen's Park.
So, in order to stay in power, Kathleen Wynne is seeking the support from the NDP. The NDP wants to slash car insurance premiums by 15%. Sounds good to me. Sounds good to every other driver in Ontario. Here's a good article on this topic taken from the Globe & Mail.
Let's assume that the budget passes. How will that impact your car accident claim? Who knows how insurers will react. Some say that many insurers will pull out of Ontario. I can't see that happening. There's just too big a population here in Ontario (think of Toronto alone as the 5 largest city in North America). And with big populations come big opportunity for insurers to make lots of money.
I'm all for a slash in premiums, particularly after benefits have been slashed. But, what I don't like is that on both sides of the coin, the government is legislating:
1) How much insurance companies can or cannot charge for their services
2) How the accident benefit regime is legislated
A free market is exactly that. Free. If a baker wants to charge $1,000,000 for a loaf of bread, he's entitled to do so. The market won't dictate many sales, as you can buy a loaf of bread at a grocery store for $2.99. But so long as there is not price collusion, and fair competition, allow the market forces to play themselves out. If somebody actually wants to spend $1,000,000 on that loaf of bread, then good on the baker.
The whole accident benefit regime was brought in to protect accident victims and provide them with optimal care which OHIP did not provide for following a car accident. That has got lost in the mix of all of that legislation and tinkering of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule or SABS for short. Let's not lose sight of why we brought in no fault insurance to Ontario in the first place.