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(Adrian Wyld/CP Photo (file))
(Adrian Wyld/CP Photo (file))

New auto insurance rules in Ontario Add to ...

New auto insurances changes that kick in today are rankling the opposition, but Premier Dalton McGuinty says premiums have to rise at some point.

The Liberals say some of the new rules help the government crack down on fraud, but opposition critics say those changes leave honest drivers paying more.

The new insurance rules include a $2,000 cap on assessments after costs of exams and assessments skyrocketed 258 per cent over five years.

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Finance Minister Dwight Duncan says the number of claims and accidents has remained fairly stable, and he blames the jump on abuse of the system.

But the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP say Ontario drivers will have to pay more under the new rules.

McGuinty says the new system is "just about as good as you can get it" in terms of managing cost pressures.

"I think we've done a pretty good job at holding the line on insurance premiums for drivers for about six years now, but you know you can't keep that down forever," he said Wednesday.

"I think we've come up with a pretty good and sensible option, which is to give drivers, motorists a choice when it comes to the kind of package they want to purchase."

The changes also include a 50-per-cent cut in medical and rehabilitation benefits, as well as in attendant care benefits, and income replacement coverage will fall too.

The Liberals say drivers will be able to purchase additional levels of coverage in the same way they've been able to pay higher premiums to lower deductible levels.

But Progressive Conservative Norm Miller says the changes will hurt Ontario families instead of fraudsters.

And NDP critic Peter Kormos says the changes will boost premiums and reduce the amount of coverage.

In the 2004-2009 period, caregiver costs ballooned 450 per cent and housekeeping costs went up 280 per cent while the number of accidents stayed relatively stable, Duncan said.

"These costs have gone way up out of all proportion to anything," he said.

"It's abuse of the system... What these reforms are designed to do is protect those nine million Ontarians who pay their bills for insurance every month and never make a claim."

But Miller accused the government of passing the cost of fraud along to the average driver.

"(Premier) Dalton McGuinty had a choice between cracking down on those who game the system through fraud, ambulance chasing and excessive injury assessments or cracking down on Ontario families," Miller said.

"He chose to crack down on Ontario families by making them pay more."

Ontario needs a public system like British Columbia, where drivers pay lower premiums and get a more reasonable benefits package, Kormos said.

"These are dramatic changes that are going to boost premiums and reduce the amount of coverage and put accident victims in peril of being victimized twice," he said.

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