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Ontario NDP Leader Horwath threatens election over auto insurance premiums

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath. is seen in her office in Toronto, Ont., on Nov. 14, 2012.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is ratcheting up the pressure on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on auto insurance, raising the spectre of an election if she doesn't get a 15 per cent cut in premiums.

Ms. Horwath is demanding the government impose the cut, which she argues the sector can afford as a result of larger profits in recent years.

"If I don't get what the people of this province deserve in terms of changes that address their problems in this budget, then we will be going to the polls," she said Friday.

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The auto insurance reduction is one of six budget requests the NDP have made of Ms. Wynne. Other items on the wish list include a guarantee no one will wait more than five days to receive home care, a new youth job placement program and the elimination of some corporate tax credits.

The minority Liberals need the support of at least one other party to pass a budget, expected next month, and avert an election. The Progressive Conservatives have said they likely won't back the budget, leaving the Grits reliant on the NDP.

And Ms. Wynne sounded open to the third party's demands.

This is an area that we can work on together," she said following a cabinet meeting in Sault Ste. Marie. "I hope that we'll be able to find a way."

The Liberals brought in a package of auto insurance reform in 2010 that held the line on rates and caused a modest 0.26 per cent drop in premiums last year. Ms. Wynne said her government would continue that work.

Ms. Horwath and NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh, who has repeatedly called for lower insurance rates, met with industry representatives Friday at Queen's Park. While both sides agreed that more had to be done to crack down on insurance fraud, industry representatives said the sector simply cannot afford a government-imposed 15 per cent cut.

"The Ontario auto system has struggled. In fact, a couple of years ago there was a one-year loss of $1.7-billion," said Steve Kee, a spokesman for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, following the meeting with the NDP.

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Not all of Ms. Horwath's base, however, may be willing to go to the mattresses over the issue.

Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, warned on Twitter: "[One] million union members in [Ontario]. I have not heard one say they want an election over auto insurance."

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