Premier Kathleen Wynne has slammed the brakes on the possibility of the minority Liberals achieving a 15 per cent cut on auto insurance rates within the NDP’s one-year deadline.
“I just don’t believe that it’s possible for us to put a firm date,” Wynne told reporters in Brampton, where she was promoting the budget measure in a bid to pressure the New Democrats to support the government.
“We’ve talked to the industry and we understand that it’s complex. We understand that there are changes across the system that need to be made so we have to do this in a prudent way,” the premier said Thursday.
“It has to be a viable outcome because what I don’t want to do is create a situation where there are people who won’t be able to get insurance because the insurance industry says, ‘Well, you’re pushing us too hard, we just won’t write insurance for certain parts of the population,’ ” she said.
“I am not willing to put people at risk in that way.”
Cutting car insurance premiums is a cornerstone demand NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has made of Wynne in exchange for not toppling the Liberals when the budget is voted on.
It was one of seven policy requests made by Horwath that Finance Minister Charles Sousa incorporated into the May 2 budget.
Wynne made a point of praising NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh (Bramalea—Gore—Malton), as well as Liberal MPP Vic Dhillon (Brampton West) and Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey, for highlighting the soaring GTA auto insurance rates.
Singh, main champion of the 15 per cent cut, said “a gradual reduction over one year” is not unreasonable and expressed concern that the Liberals may water down the pledge.
“The key problem is that the accountability is not there. Time and time again we’re promised things, but there’s no follow-through,” he said outside the Bramalea home where Wynne held her campaign-style event.
“This is a key issue. If we’re not seeing any concrete timelines, any concrete deadlines in terms of when we’ll see this 15 per cent reduction, it’s meaningless.”
This week, Horwath has been introducing new conditions that must be met before her party can allow the budget to pass and avert a June vote that would cost $92 million and come 20 months since the last provincial election.
On Wednesday, the NDP leader demanded the creation of a $2.5 million a year “Financial Accountability Office” — modelled on the federal Parliamentary Budget Office — to provide oversight of provincial spending.
Friday morning at Queen’s Park, she will seek measures “to put accountability in the health-care system” and ensure the Liberals abide by a guarantee that home-care services are delivered within a maximum of five days.
Wynne said she was trying to keep an open mind about the New Democrats’ wish-list.
“In terms of the other requests the NDP is making at the moment . . . we don’t have a full list, we’re not exactly sure what the requests are,” the premier said.
“We believe that it’s not a bad idea that we have that discussion about the latest suggestion. My hope is that we’ll be able to get the budget passed.”