BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
A study by the Consumers? Association of Ontario says Sudbury drivers pay significantly higher auto insurance rates compared to other ?resource? based cities in Canada.
On average, Sudburians pay $2,104 for their car insurance, whereas drivers in Lloydminster, Sask., pay just $1,097. Rates are $1,259 in Prince George, B.C., $1382 in Thompson, Man., and $1,652 in Fort McMurray, Alta.
The average car insurance rate in Ontario was $2,383, while B.C. residents pay on average $1,324, the study says.
British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all have public auto insurance administered by Crown corporations.
Sudburians are actually getting a good deal compared to drivers in Toronto, who pay on average $2,950 to insure their vehicles.
Nickel Belt MPP Shelley Martel says the study shows the McGuinty government has done very little to reduce car insurance rates since coming to
power nearly two years ago.
?For the life of me, I can?t see what the government is doing,? she says.
?During the election, the government promised that they would lower people?s auto insurance rates. If that was happening, the Consumers? Association of Canada would not have any statistics to release to show the opposite.?
Car insurance rates are high because private companies are more concerned about making money than providing a good product at a reasonable price, she says.
Ontario needs to bring in public auto insurance, Martel says.
(Martel was a member of the Bob Rae government in the early 1990s which promised public car insurance then changed its mind once elected.)
?In provinces that have public auto insurance ? British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba ? the only interest is providing a good product at an affordable rate to consumers. In a system where the private sector controls insurance, the motivation is money,? she says.
The MPP has had people phoning her office to complain about private insurance companies.
?We just always have people calling here to give us stories about a company they?ve had for a long time, and they decide to put their new window
through the insurance instead of doing it themselves. All of a sudden their auto insurance rates go right through the roof, or they just get notices saying they?re not going to renew you anymore.?
If Ontario did go to public auto insurance, insurance companies might suffer a little, but people would likely still be able to purchase supplemental insurance from private companies. Insurance brokers would still be needed to sell the public insurance, says Martel.
But Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario president Randy Carroll defends insurance companies, saying that auto insurance rates aren?t at all exhorbitant in this province.
In fact, rates went down 10.6 percent in 2004, he says.
Carroll questions the validity of the study, saying that the examined rates didn?t take into special deals on insurance into consideration.
?They didn?t take into consideration multi-policy discounts. If you?re a consumer out buying insurance, if you bundle your insurance together, you usually get a better price. That?s if you have your car and home insurance with the same company. The discounts can range anywhere from five to 10 percent.?
There are no benefits to public auto insurance, says Carroll. Right now, consumers can shop around to get the best deal, but that option is gone with a public system.
?Consumers in Ontario have every choice in the world right now. Dealing with a public system, you don?t have any choice except a single choice,?