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BC gov't to announce ICBC changes today, in effort to stop 'financial dumpster fire'

Last Updated Feb 6, 2018 at 7:06 am PDT

FILE - BC Attorney General David Eby speaks to reporters on January 29, 2018. (Marcella Bernardo, NEWS 1130 Photo)

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation suggests running ICBC more like a credit union

Attorney General David Eby is scheduled to announce changes aimed at stopping the financial bleeding at ICBC Tuesday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Attorney General David Eby will be speaking Tuesday about how the NDP plans to stop the financial bleeding at ICBC.

ICBC had announced a week ago it expected to lose more than $1 billion by April, a situation Eby referred to as a “financial dumpster fire.”

However, it’s also one the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says could be solve by creating more competition.

Kris Sims with the citizen’s advocacy group says the current model means BC drivers have no choice when it comes to their insurance.

“We have a government controlled monopoly on basic auto insurance here in BC, and we now have the highest auto insurance rates in the whole country,” she explains. “We unfortunately beat everybody.”

She says the injustice in that is that British Columbians don’t have the option to “shop around”.

Sims suggests running ICBC more like a credit union. “Mutualize it so it’s owned by BC drivers that choose it, then open that co-op up to competition. That way those who are most comfortable with group insurance, mutual insurance, can pick it or they can shop around and try to find lower rates.”

According to the Taxpayers Federation’s BC director, it’s almost become a “taboo thing” to talk about competition in auto insurance in BC.

“We’re really being done over,” she says. “It’s shockingly expensive to insure your car in this province.”

She says drivers in other provinces have the option of grouping different types of insurance like home, auto, and content. “You can group all those things together in a cluster and that brings your rate right down.”

However, the suggestion isn’t just to look to other jurisdictions to create a local model but rather to make a “made-in-BC” solution.

So what about other ideas like bringing back photo-radar?

“Frankly I think a lot of this photo-radar talk is a bit of a distraction,” Sims tells NEWS 1130. “I think it’s a technological, shiny object that they’re waving over us to distract us from the fact that ICBC’s system, the way it’s set up right now, is bleeding money and not working, and that we pay the highest rates.”

That’s not to say these kinds of options shouldn’t be examined, but she warns they may be a bit of a smoke screen.

Blame game won’t work forever

Last month, Eby blamed the former Liberal government for ignoring warnings and recommendations made in a 2014 report and noted that before the last election, the Liberals said the losses would be $11 million.

The insurance corporation has already posted a net loss of $935 million in the first nine month of its fiscal year. Eby has said the financial situation will have implications on the provincial budget.

Meanwhile, a political scientist says the BC NDP’s strategy of blaming the previous Liberal government won’t work forever.

Hamish Telford, a professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, says it’s standard operating procedure for a new government to blame the old one. But the public is going to want solutions sooner rather than later.

“You’re the new government and you’re the one who wanted to win the election. And it’s now your problem to solve. I don’t think that voters have a lot of patience for this kind of rhetoric.”

As for the BC Liberals, he says we should expect them to be playing the blame game, too. “It’s amazing how little shame politicians have. Even though the Liberals may have created the problem, they will act as if it’s the NDP’s problem entirely.”

Eby and ICBC chair Joy MacPhail are scheduled to speak in Victoria at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. We’ll have all the details when they’re made available.