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The province is looking at ways to help residents save on their auto insurance.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced a variety of significant reforms to auto insurance that would span across the province, by introducing the Fair Auto Insurance Plan. The plan includes reforms that aim to address fraud in the system, putting victims first and provide better access to care for those injured in auto collisions.

The plan is based on recommendations made by David Marshall, Ontario’s advisor on auto insurance. In a report released in April, he urged transformative changes aimed at improving the care received by people hurt in collisions, reducing disputes around diagnosis and treatment -- and promoting innovation, competition and other steps to improve consumer protection.

Highlights of the plan include:

- Implementing standard treatment plans for common collision injuries such as sprains, strains and whiplash to help people receive the treatment they need after an accident, changing the emphasis from cash payouts to ensuring appropriate care for victims.

- Reducing diagnosis and treatment disputes between insurance companies and people injured in collisions by instituting independent examination centres to assess more serious auto collision injuries.

- Cracking down on fraud by launching the province's first Serious Fraud Office in spring 2018. The office will use an integrated and dedicated approach to combat serious fraud, with a focus on auto insurance fraud, which has been identified as one of the factors contributing to higher premiums.

- Directing the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to review risk factors used by insurers to calculate premiums with the goal of ensuring drivers in certain parts of the province are not subject to unfairly high rates.

- Ensuring that lawyers' contingency fees are fair, reasonable and more transparent

The province will establish a panel to guide the enactment of reforms contained in the Fair Auto Insurance Plan.

“We’ve introduced a number of important changes over the years that resulted in lower insurance costs for Ontario drivers, but they don’t go far enough,” said Sousa. “That’s why we commissioned David Marshall to uncover the root of the problem and provide recommendations to improve consumer protection and system efficiency. Based on the findings of his report, we are taking action through the Fair Auto Insurance Plan to help victims, tackle fraud and further reduce premium costs,” he said.

However, NDP Consumer Affairs critic Wayne Gates isn’t confident in the plan.

“We’ve seen this play out. Before an election, the Liberals make promises about auto insurance, and, right after the election, they let people down. Why would people believe them this time?” asked Gates, in question period at Queen’s Park.

The province says that statistics show minor injuries account for between 70 and 80 per cent of claims, while catastrophic injuries account for about one per cent.

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