December 18, 2018 by Greg Meckbach
A report recommending major auto reforms, from a former CEO of Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, appears to have gone by the wayside.
“What I have heard is that [the] Marshall [report] is dead,” consultant Willie Handler said Monday in an interview.
David Marshall’s report on Ontario auto – Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered – was released April 11, 2017.
That report was “probably the best description we have to date of what is wrong” with Ontario auto, Don Forgeron, chief executive officer of Insurance Bureau of Canada, said during a speech shortly after the release of the Marshall report, which contains 35 recommendations.
Marshall criticized the current auto insurance regime for many perceived weaknesses, including duelling assessments from lawyers and health practitioners.
Marshall was appointed in 2015 as a special advisor to Charles Sousa, Liberal finance minister until 2018. The Progressive Conservatives took power in the election this past June.
The Marshall report “was the previous government’s initiative and this [PC] government’s not interested in the report, despite the fact that the insurance industry is still lobbying the government to implement,” said Handler, who worked for 20 years on auto insurance regulatory policy for the Ontario government. He now operates a consulting practice, Willie Handler and Associates.
Canadian Underwriter asked the finance ministry – which handles auto insurance regulation – whether the newly-elected PCs plan to implement any recommendations from the report, other than measures that were already in the works – such as the new Financial Services Regulatory Authority.
An Ontario government spokesperson said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli is not available for interviews. The spokesperson did not answer the question directly but did reiterate statements already released in the government’s fall economic statement. For example, the PCs aim to conduct a review of how rates are regulated and to create a “framework” that allows for innovations such as electronic pink slips.
One of Marshall’s recommendations is for a system of a hospital-based independent examination centres.
The rationale was that when a client is hurt in a car accident, an examination centre could provide a diagnosis and treatment plan that would essentially be binding on both the claimant and the insurance carrier.
“The advice given by the independent examination centres should be taken as mandatory in accident benefits and tort disputes and courts should afford those opinions a zone of deference in tort cases,” Marshall said in the report.
In December, 2017, then-finance Minister Charles Sousa signalled his intent to set up independent examination centres similar in concept to what Marshall recommended. At the time, the government said it would bring in “standard treatment plans for common collision injuries such as sprains, strains and whiplash” and independent examination centres to assess motor vehicle accident injuries.
“The previous government never did anything” to actually put those independent examination centres in place, Handler noted Tuesday. “It just announced it and never actually worked on implementing it.”
Asked to speculate on whether the new government might move forward with the independent examination centres, Handler replied “never say never, but that idea came from David Marshall and I don’t see any appetite from the government on doing any of his recommendations.”