10/16/2014 02:33 EDT | Updated 12/16/2014 05:59 EST

Auto insurance rate cut behind schedule; Ontario insists it will meet target

TORONTO - Ontario's Liberal government insists it can meet a two-year target to cut auto insurance rates even though they're behind schedule.

The government promised to bring the rates down by an average of 15 per cent across the province by August 2015, pledging to meet an eight-per-cent target in the first year. Finance Minister Charles Sousa says with less than one year to go they have only seen a six-per-cent decrease.

Newly released numbers show that rates in the third quarter of this year decreased on average by 0.11 per cent, based on approximately one-quarter of insurers, who had rates approved during that period.

That compares to an average increase of 0.22 per cent in the second quarter.

But Sousa believes that with legislation the majority Liberal government will reintroduce they can still meet their 15-per-cent target. Some companies, he said, already have cut rates in excess of 10 per cent.

"We're on track," Sousa said Thursday. "We need to do better in terms of making those reductions happen. I'm looking forward to enacting the very piece of legislation that was held up so that we can get back and get on track."

The bill, which died when the spring election was called, aims to combat fraud, make it easier to settle disputes, provide better oversight and curb costs.

The dispute resolution system for injured drivers would be moved from Ontario's insurance regulator to an existing tribunal run by the Ministry of the Attorney General, which the industry has said would eliminate one step in the appeals process.

The legislation proposes more oversight of the billing practices of health clinics and allow only licensed service providers to be paid directly by insurers.

Progressive Conservative critic Vic Fedeli said he doubts the Liberal government will meet its 15-per-cent target.

"They haven't met their numbers so far," he said. "I can't see them heading in a direction that meets their numbers."

NDP critic Jagmeet Singh said the Liberals are dragging their heels on the issue.

"They move so quickly to put more money in the pockets of the insurance companies and they're moving so slowly when it comes to saving dollars for Ontario drivers," he said. "It's clear they don't care about drivers and it's not a priority for them to address the increasingly high price of auto insurance."