03/01/2013 01:13 EST | Updated 05/01/2013 05:12 EDT

Andrea Horwath Willing To Trigger Ontario Election Over Auto Insurance Premiums


TORONTO - NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is keeping her foot on the accelerator when it comes to cutting auto insurance premiums, even if it means speeding into a spring election.

Horwath insists that if the minority Liberals don't cut premiums by 15 per cent in the spring budget — and meet other NDP demands — she won't be afraid to pull the trigger.

"I've told the premier what I expect. She knows what I want to see in the budget," Horwath said Friday.

"And she always knows — I've said it publicly — 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."

The New Democrats want $30 million to eliminate homecare waiting lists and a guarantee that no seniors would have to wait more than five days for homecare.

They also want the Liberals to close $1.3 billion in corporate tax loopholes and spend $200 million to create jobs for youth.

Horwath first threatened to toppled the government after the Feb. 20 throne speech. The speech touched on some of the issues the NDP raised, but Horwath said it was too vague and threatened to withdraw her party's support if the Liberals didn't meet her demands.

It could be part of the usual sabre-rattling that precedes a budget in a minority parliament. But with the Progressive Conservatives all but saying they want an election, the Liberals need the NDP's support to survive.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said she made it clear to Horwath that insurance rates need to be "worked on." Her government wants to tackle auto insurance fraud and have the savings applied to premiums.

She said she wants to work with the opposition parties, but if they decide they want an election, she's prepared to go to the polls.

"It's not what I want us to do. I want us to govern," Wynne said after a cabinet meeting in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

"But if we have to do that because the opposition doesn't want to work with us, then we will happily do that."

Horwath said her party supports the government's plan to reduce fraud, but more can be done to provide relief for drivers.

Changes were made to Ontario auto insurance in 2010 to reduce costs by limiting benefits and cutting medical assessments, the NDP said. But insurance premiums have increased on average by five per cent since then.

"When we look at the numbers, we see about a $2 billion savings that the industry was able to achieve with the changes and benefits that occurred over 2010," Horwath said after meeting with insurance representatives.

"And we think a good part of that can be passed on to consumers."

Steve Kee, a spokesman for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said insurance companies have turned very little profit in Ontario.

There are a lot of factors that are driving up rates, he said. Some people abuse the system — the average claim is $30,000 in Ontario compared to $3,500 in Alberta — and there's a lot of fraud.

"Fraud is $1.6 billion a year in Ontario auto," he said. "That's ridiculous. ... We need to deal with that core issue."

Also on HuffPost