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Ontario election call kills bills proposing towing industry regulation, auto insurance reform


May 16, 2014   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor


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When Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak rejected the minority Liberal government’s proposed budget for Ontario, they effectively killed at least 19 pieces of legislation that would have affected or piqued the interest of auto, property and liability insurers as well as surety bond providers.

Ontario voters go to the polls June 12, so the legislature is now dissolved, meaning any bills not passed into law have died on the order paper.

This includes a wide range of proposals, such as requiring towing firms to publish rates, allowing construction of wood frame buildings of up to six storeys, allowing construction contractors to suspend or terminate work when they do not receive progress payments (possibly triggering claims on performance bonds) and prohibiting the use of minor vehicle accidents in risk classifications.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa tabled the budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year on May 1. Both Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservative party, and Horwath, the New Democratic Party leader, said they would not support the budget. On the advice of Premier Kathleen Wynne, Lieutenant Governor David Onley then dissolved the legislature and called the election.

In the budget document, Sousa had proposed that the province develop “a dedicated investigation and prosecution office on serious fraud, with an initial focus on auto insurance fraud” and to  “prohibit credit unions from online promotion of insurance products such as home and auto insurance, which they are not permitted to promote in their branches.”

The legislation that died on the order paper includes:

– Bill 171, the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, which passed second reading April 14 and was referred to the Standing Committee on General Government.

Had it become law, only licenced health care providers could get paid on auto claims directly by insurance carriers. Bill 171 also proposed to give the government the authority to “reduce the number of days, currently at 60, within which a storer has to give notice, where required, to owners of vehicles and still claim a lien,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa said when he tabled the bill.

The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) warned earlier that if Bill 171 is not passed into law, there would be no way for the government to deliver the 15% reduction, in the industry-wide average private passenger auto premium, by next August.

– Bill 189, the Roadside Assistance Protection Act, which Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles tabled April 15.

“New rules would require towing and storage providers to do the following: first, publish their rates; second, provide an itemized invoice; third, accept payment by credit card if requested; disclose to the consumer any interest a towing and storage provider may have in a location or facility to which a vehicle may be towed for repair or storage; and give the consumer access to his or her towed vehicle to remove personal property,” MacCharles told the legislature when she tabled the bill.

– Bill 100, a private member’s bill tabled by Liberal MPP Mike Colle, who represents the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.

Colle proposed to require that auto risk classifications “not consider minor accidents and shall provide for lower rates for new drivers by crediting new drivers, in certain circumstances, with additional years of driving experience.” Bill 100 proposed to define as minor accidents “that result in $2,500 or less in damages, no injuries or death, and that did not result in an insurer making any payments that were not fully reimbursed by an insured driver.”

– Bill 13, originally tabled by PC MPP Vic Fedeli, which passed second reading and was referred last November to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

In that bill, Fedeli proposed to change the provincial building code to allow wood frame buildings of up to six storeys in height. Currently, Ontario only allows wood frame buildings of up to four storeys in height. British Columbia changed its building code in 2009 to allow six-storey wood frame buildings. Bill 13 would not have prevented the building code from “imposing requirements on or prohibiting specified classes of wood frame buildings.”

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey said Bill 13 was premature and “could pose significant safety issues for both residents and our emergency responders.” Jeffrey noted at the time that the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, which is part of the National Research Council, was reviewing proposed changes to the 2010 National Model Construction Codes.

– Bill 93, the Towing Industry Act.

Tabled June 10, 2013 by Jerry Ouellette, PC MPP for Oshawa, Bill 93 proposed to establish the Towing Industry Council of Ontario. Had Bill 93 become law, towing businesses and tow truck drivers would have had to register as members of the Towing Industry Council of Ontario in order to carry on a towing business or operate a tow truck.

 – Bill 78, the Electronic Personal Health Information Protection Act, which was last debated April 28 on second reading.

A government bill tabled by Health Minister Deb Matthews, it would have made changes to the Drug Interchangeability and Dispensing Fee Act, the Regulated Health Professions Act and the Personal Health Information Protection Act. Bill 78 would have prohibited “a health information custodian from collecting personal health information from the electronic health record maintained by a prescribed organization except for the purposes of providing or assisting in the provision of health care to an individual, or eliminating or reducing a significant risk of serious bodily harm to a person or group of persons, where the health information custodian believes on reasonable grounds that the collection is necessary for this purpose.”

As the province moves “to an electronic medical records system with multiple health care providers having access to individual medical records, it’s essential to establish a framework and protocols for the sharing of this information and to ensure that it is only used for prescribed purposes,” said Christine Elliott, the PC critic for health and long-term care, in the legislature. “The concept of confidentiality with respect to health information is relatively new. Prior to 1977, it was relatively easy for insurance companies, investigation agencies, police and lawyers to obtain access to patients’ medical records.”

– Bill 69, the Prompt Payment Act, which was referred to Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills but had yet to be tabled in the legislature for third reading.

In essence, Bill 69 is intended to ensure that construction contractors are paid in a timely manner. Steve Ness, president of the Surety Association of Canada (which represents insurance firms offering surety bonds), told the Regulations and Private Bills committee that SAC “is very supportive of the principles behind Bill 69” but added Bill 69 did not stipulate what should happen if a contractor exercised its rights to suspend or terminate a contract in the event that a progress payment on a construction project is not made on time.

“We think that further clarification is required to prevent a rash of claims coming at our performance bonds,” Ness said in his testimony.

– Bill 34, which would have made several changes to the Highway Traffic Act,
including those applying to individuals who have failed to pay fines for offences under Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act and under the Highway Traffic Act.

Had it passed into law, it would have made changes to the rules on issuing licence plates and validation stickers.

“The proposed expansion of plate denial” would  “apply retrospectively for a specified period of time to all plates owned by a defaulter in certain circumstances,” Transport Minister Glenn Murray told the legislature. “One of the things we’ve discovered is that sometimes people have multiple plates and they will just substitute the plates out. This will prevent that from happening, because it will cover all plates under the ownership of that person or in that household.”

Bill 34 would also have given municipalities the authority to issue offence notices to the owners of vehicles from other jurisdictions who are caught by red light cameras and who fail to stop for school buses.

– Bill 145, which passed first reading Dec. 2, 2013, proposed to allow Sikh motorcyclists “who have unshorn hair and who habitually wear turbans” to ride their motorcycles without a helmet.

“This would keep us in line with what’s happening in the United Kingdom, as well as in Manitoba and British Columbia, and would ensure legislative protection for an article of faith for the Sikh community,” said Jagmeet Singh, the NDP MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton who introduced Bill 145, during first reading.

– Bill 183, which would have made it an offence under the Highway Traffic Act to drive a vehicle “if snow or ice has accumulated” on the vehicle or trailer “in a manner that would pose a danger to other motor vehicles on the highway.”

Tabled March 26 by John Yakabuski, PC MPP for Renfrew-Nippising-Pembroke, Bill 183 would have set fines of up to $500 for private passenger vehicles and up to $1,000 for commercial vehicles.

– Bill 46, the Safe Roundabouts Act, which would have let the transport minister make rules that apply to roundabouts.

Had it passed into law, the transport minister would have had to conduct a study about the safe use of roundabouts and to table a progress report at Queen’s Park every year until a regulation was made. The private member’s bill was tabled March 28, 2013 by Michael Harris, the PC MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga.

– Bill 66 the Unlawfully Possessed Handguns in Vehicles Act, another private member’s bill tabled by Liberal MPP Colle.

The bill which passed first reading in May, 2013, would have made it an offence to drive on a vehicle in Ontario in which there is an unlawfully possessed handgun. It would have provided for a minimum fine of $2,000, up to six month in jail, a one-year licence suspension fo a first offence, a five-year licence suspension for a second conviction and an indefinite suspension for a third conviction. It would also have allowed a police officer “who believes, on reasonable and probable grounds, that an offence has been committed” to confiscate the licence and impound the vehicle for seven days.

– Bill 157, the Financial Advisors Act, which would have required financial advisors to register with a provincial body, which in turn would have had the authority to require members to maintain errors and omissions and professional liability insurance.

“In the current environment, anybody can set up shop and call themselves financial advisers, regardless of their licences, training, education or ethics,” Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci said when he tabled the private member’s bill. “Bill 157 creates an oversight mechanism for individuals who hold themselves out to the public as financial advisers, and requires membership in a recognized professional body.”

Bill 157 passed second reading March 20 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. Had it passd into law, it would not have applied to several categories already covered by provincial professionals’ regulation, such as licenced accountants or registered insurance brokers.

– Bill 139, the Tarion Accountability and Oversight Act.

Tarion, a private corporation that administers the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act, is mandated to protect consumers when builders fail to honour their warranty obligations. Bill 139, tabled by NDP MPP Rosario Marchese,  passed first reading in November, 2013. With Bill 139, Marchese proposed to change the definition of “home” in the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act to include units in condominium conversions.

Had Bill 139 been passed into law, Tarion would have also been required to publish a directory of home builders on the Internet. That directory would have had to include all previous business names used by each builder and each associated builder within the preceding 10 years, “any publicly available information with respect to the builder’s performance within the preceding 10 years” and Tarion’s “risk assessment of the builder.”

– Bill 181, which passed second reading March 27 and was referred to Standing Committee on Social Policy.

Tabled by Gila Martow,  PC MPP for Thornhill, the bill proposed several measures, including public education programs “to improve driver behaviour in circumstances involving highway incidents.”

“Drivers who are involved in a minor accident may not be aware that if the damage to their vehicle is minor and if their automobiles are still operable, they are to drive to a local collision reporting centre to advise of the incident,” Martow todl the legislature.  “If drivers are aware of how to address minor accidents and where the local collision reporting centres are located, this will clear our roads in a timely fashion.”

– Bill 96, the Radon Awareness and Prevention Act, which was referred in September 2013 to the Standing Committee on General Government.

A private member’s bill introduced by Shafiq Qaadri, Liberal MPP for Etobicoke North, Bill 96 proposed to require the government to educate the public about radon, to “encourage homeowners to measure the radon levels in their homes and take remedial action, if necessary” and to “ensure that the radon level in every provincially owned dwelling is measured and that remedial action is taken, if necessary.”

– Bill 174, which proposes to raise the amount guaranteed by the province’s Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund, from $1,000 to $2,500 a month.

The PBGF provides protection to Ontarians receiving single-employer defined benefit pension plans in the event of plan sponsor insolvency.

In February 2012, the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services (chaired by Don Drummond) recommended that the government either terminate PBGF or “see if it can be transferred to a private insurer.” In the Drummond Report, the commission contended PBGF could present “a large fiscal risk” for the province.

A private member’s bill introduced by NDP MPP Paul Miller, Bill 174 was referred after second reading to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

PBGF “was set up in 1980 by Premier Bill Davis to be self-financing, but it has been far from that, unfortunately, for a long time now,” noted  Julia Munro PC critic for seniors and retirement security and MPP for York-Simcoe. “The premium structure hasn’t changed since 1993, which is $1 per member, plus a risk fee based on the financials of the plan. In its present form, the fund is outdated and unworkable.”

– Bill 67, which passed second reading and was referred to the Standing Committee on General
Government.

A private member’s bill tabled by Cheri DiNovo, NDP MPP for the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, Bill 67 would have changed the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to stipulate that when firefighters, paramedics or police officers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, that it be “presumed to be an occupational disease that occurred due to the employment as an emergency response worker, unless the contrary is shown.”

*Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that Bill 18, the Hawkins Gignac Act (Carbon Monoxide Detectors) only made it to first reading. However, Bill 77, the Hawkins Gignac Act (Carbon Monoxide Safety), which would amend the fire code, was passed into law in November, 2013.