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Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath answers a question from the media, following an announcement that her party will lower auto insurance rates by 40 per cent, if elected, during a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont., on May 11.Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said on Wednesday that her party would overhaul the province’s auto insurance system, slashing rates by 40 per cent and ending what she called “postal code discrimination” that leads to varied insurance rates.

“We have some of the lowest rates of accidents in the country but some of the highest insurance premiums,” said the NDP Leader, who made the campaign announcement at an auto repair shop in downtown Brampton. Ms. Horwath said her plan would, on average, reduce insurance rates for Ontarians by $660 a year. For Bramptonians, who pay some of the highest rates in the country, a 40-per-cent cut could mean a reduction of as much as $2,000 annually.

Instead of mandating an instant decrease, the NDP proposal involves establishing a commission that would, over 18 months, prepare a plan to revamp the province’s entire auto insurance system. Ms. Horwath said it would look at how insurance rates in other provinces are decided. During this period, insurance companies would be banned from raising rates. The timeline for the entire process would be two years.

“It’s $850 a year in Quebec, $1,600 a year on average in Ontario. Some drivers are paying over $6,000,” she said of auto insurance rates. “In places like Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, they have significantly lower rates than us.”

The former Liberal government had vowed to reduce auto insurance rates by 15 per cent in 2015, but failed to meet that target.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada said the NDP plan would do little to help drivers in Ontario save money. “These proposals would result in drivers across the province being unfairly penalized and forced to subsidize the cost for high-risk drivers in other regions,” the IBC statement said, adding that a government-run insurance system would add billions of tax dollars in costs. “Government-run no-fault insurance systems typically also remove the right of people injured in accidents to sue for the care and support they need to recover.”

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Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca announced his party’s plan to address surgical and diagnostic backlogs with a $1-billion investment over the next two years. The money, Mr. Del Duca said at a stop in Etobicoke, would help expand hospital capacity and provide staff to run MRI and CT procedures as well as operating rooms “full-tilt, on evenings, on weekends.”

The plan would create a centralized booking and e-referral system, he added, noting the former would be a more efficient way to clear the backlog and the latter would make it easier for users to navigate the system.

Mr. Del Duca said they would also make sure that maximum wait times are “set and measured against.”

According to the Ontario Medical Association, the pandemic caused a backlog of more than 21 million patient services that could take several months to clear. That figure includes more than one million surgeries (as of the end of 2021), as well as cancer screenings, MRIs and CT scans.

Meanwhile, prior to heading off to Barrie and Guelph, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was in Sudbury Wednesday morning for an announcement about a proposed retrofit program that aims to tackle environmental and cost-of-living issues.

The plan would provide families who have a household income under $100,000 with a grant up to $20,000 for eco-friendly retrofits of their home, while households under $200,000 (but over $100,000) could get up to $15,000.

Another $2-billion would be for providers of non-profit and co-operative housing to retrofit buildings, Mr. Schreiner said, noting that his party’s initiative could create 52,000 jobs.

After a leadership debate in North Bay on Tuesday night, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford had no scheduled campaign events for Wednesday.

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