The Driver’s Guide to the 2018 Ontario Election

On June 7, 2018, Ontarians will head to the polls to elect the next provincial government. We’re no political pundits, so we’re not going to attempt to suss out who has the best chance of winning or predict which party’s policies would be best for Ontarians.

Instead, let’s discuss how a victory by each of those four parties would affect the people who own the more than eight million vehicles registered in the province of Ontario, and the workers in the industry that builds them.

Auto insurance

Ontario drivers pay some of the highest car insurance rates in Canada, so it’s no surprise this is an issue most of the parties mention in their platforms.

The Liberals cite a number of reforms they’ve made in recent years to try to keep premiums from leaping any higher, such as a discount for the use of winter tires, prohibiting insurance companies from raising premiums after minor at-fault collisions, and lowering interest rates charged on monthly premium payments.

If re-elected, the Liberals say they will amend the province’s Insurance Act to require that vehicle insurers provide claim and repair history information to car dealers, in order to make the used-vehicle purchase process more transparent for consumers. The Liberals would also continue to implement the Fair Auto Insurance Plan it introduced in 2017 to crack down on insurance fraud and review the risk factors that determine insurance rates, such as where a vehicle’s owner lives.

We reached out to the PC Party with questions on a number of topics, but they had not responded at publication time. However, the party’s transportation critic, Michael Harris, is on record in the media as saying the PCs will cut red tape, increase insurer accountability, and put together a more potent anti-fraud task force, all with the goal of reducing car insurance premiums.

The New Democrats also have car insurance on their radar, promising to cut premiums province-wide by an average of 15 percent.

“The NDP will end neighbourhood discrimination in auto insurance,” said a campaign spokesperson. “Safe drivers shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars more for their insurance just because of the neighbourhood they live in.”

The party also promises to introduce a “modest luxury tax” that would add three percent to the price of cars sold for more than $90,000, which the party claims would “only affect about one percent of sales transactions.”

The Green Party had no comment on the topic of auto insurance.

Electric vehicle incentives

The Liberals say the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-Carbon Economy Act of 2016 – commonly termed “cap and trade” – helped raise $2.4 billion in 2017–2018, and is expected to bring in another $2 billion in 2018–2019. That money will continue to fund the province’s electric vehicle lease and purchase incentives, and the installation of more public EV charging stations.

Late last year, Ontario also announced an incentive for electric commercial trucks that would see truck buyers get as much as $75,000 of their purchase costs back from the province.

One thing the PC Party has been clear about is their plan to eliminate the Liberal’s carbon cap-and-trade program which, as mentioned, is the source of funds for Ontario’s current electric-vehicle purchase incentives – the most generous in Canada. The PCs say scrapping cap-and-trade would also let it cut 4.3 cents off the cost of a litre of gasoline.

Ontario’s Green Party has a plan to electrify the province’s transportation system and make Ontario “the leading electric-vehicle jurisdiction in the world.” That plan includes an incentive program that would use rebates to cap the price of electrified vehicles, eliminate HST on zero-emission vehicles, and make overnight charging free for residential hydro customers.

The Green Party also promises to “encourage the development of infrastructure for EVs,” including installing charging stations at all public buildings, ensuring municipalities identify and remove barriers to EV adoption and fund charging stations, and requiring condominiums “to provide facilities (to) allow residents to plug in electric vehicles.” The Greens would also add more charging stations along the province’s 400-series highways “as quickly as possible.”

An NDP spokesperson said simply that the party will “maintain the current electric-vehicle purchase incentive program.”

Cara Clairman, CEO of Plug’n Drive, a national non-profit that promotes the benefits of electric vehicles, said she is “hopeful that if we can show the value of offering incentives on EVs to the grid and consumers, the evidence will speak for itself no matter (which party) wins (the election). It should not be a partisan issue.”

Auto manufacturing

The Liberal party claims to have created almost 18,000 manufacturing jobs in Ontario in 2017, but doesn’t specify how many of those are in the automotive sector. The party says one of the focuses of its SkillsAdvance Ontario program is automotive manufacturing. The Liberal platform also states that over the next 10 years, the party would invest $50 million in a Transformative Technologies Partnerships Fund to promote continued research into autonomous vehicle technology, work that the Liberals say would contribute in part to retaining 3,600 “high value” jobs and attract $1 billion in investment.

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives haven’t made any promises specific to the province’s auto-manufacturing industry, but Ford has said that if elected, his party will cut red tape and leave a carbon tax off the table in a bid to attract manufacturing jobs to Ontario.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath says that if elected, her party will target funds to promote manufacturing research and development, and work with the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council to make Ontario the “premier destination for the next generation of auto-manufacturing investment.”

When asked about the future of Ontario’s auto industry, the Green Party’s spokesperson was vague, suggesting that the “cleantech economy will provide the jobs of the future,” claiming there are already more than 270,000 such jobs in Canada paying an average salary above $90,000 a year.

“There will always be a foundational supply of traditional manufacturing jobs and a need for well-trained and highly skilled tradespeople,” their spokesperson said.

Public transit

In its most recent budget, the Liberal party said it would invest $79 billion in public transit over the next decade.

The PC Party says it would allocate $5 billion “for Toronto subways,” GO transit service to Niagara Falls, and continued financial support for light rail in Ottawa.

The NDP’s platform says its government would “cover 50 percent of operating costs for municipal transit,” a move the party says would help transit authorities improve services and avoid fare hikes.

As a strong advocate for public transit, the Greens have also committed to “funding 50 percent of municipal transit systems” and claims they are alone in “talking honestly with voters about how to pay for world-class transit” through initiatives like road tolls, congestion charges, and parking levies.

Drive Clean

Late last year, the Liberal government announced a pilot project that would allow vehicle emissions tests conducted through the Drive Clean program to be done remotely using a device plugged into the car’s diagnostic port, eliminating the need to take the car to a Drive Clean–approved testing facility. That follows the 2016 elimination of a $30 fee for the test.

The PC Party stated that its policy is to eliminate the Drive Clean test program altogether.

Andrea Horwath’s NDP is on record as being against the PC plan to scrap Drive Clean, but hasn’t stated whether it would make any changes to the program.

In its 2017 policy book, the Ontario Greens pledged to “enhance enforcement of automotive emission regulations through the Drive Clean program.”

The 2018 Ontario general election takes place on June 7, with polls opening at 9 am and closing at 9 pm. Advance polls will be open May 26–30. Visit the Elections Ontario website for more information.

Insurance, manufacturing, EVs, and transit 5/24/2018 8:00:00 AM