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BC Liberals promise to end ICBC monopoly

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Oct 6, 2020 at 5:21 pm PDT

FILE - A car drives by an ICBC driver licencing officer. (NEWS 1130 Photo, Sonia Aslam)
Summary

Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson says his party, if elected, would open up the basic auto insurance market to competition

The BC NDP says the Liberals' plan would cost individual drivers $400 more a year

ICBC made over $300 million in the first quarter of 2020

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson promised Tuesday that his party, if elected, would end the ICBC monopoly.

The Liberals would open up the basic auto insurance market to competition so drivers could shop for the best possible rates.

“B.C. drivers are tired of being gouged by John Horgan and the NDP,” Wilkinson says. “The ICBC monopoly is a failure and it’s time to offer drivers cheaper rates — that’s what competition will do and that’s what the BC Liberals will deliver.”

The party would also offer lower premiums to young drivers.

“When I hear stories of young people with clean driving records stuck with bills of over $5,000, it’s clear the system is failing and needs to be fixed,” adds Wilkinson. “Young people face enough pressure these days, so the BC Liberals will make sure they have affordable auto insurance.”

The BC NDP, however, says the Liberals’ plan would cost individual drivers $400 more a year.

“The BC NDP’s Enhanced Care model cuts down on hundreds of millions every year in legal costs, allowing ICBC to improve care for people and reduce car insurance by 20 per cent starting May 1, 2021. That’s an average savings of $400 a year,” says the NDP, which passed legislation to curb such costs in July.

And the NDP’s David Eby says the BC Liberals won’t be able to fix the car insurance system.

“We can’t go backwards. We can’t trust the same government that turned ICBC from profitable cooperation that delivered lower insurance rates to British Columbians, into a mess.”

Eby adds the NDP plan to cut legal costs will result in rate cuts.

The NDP has already promised to return $300 million in profits generated by ICBC during the COVID-19 pandemic to drivers in the form of a rebate cheque on May 1, when new rates would start.

“But even if private insurance wasn’t more expensive, Andrew Wilkinson would cancel the single most important measure: cutting down on the astronomical legal costs that are driving up insurance rates for everyone,” says the NDP.

“Personal injury law firms received $500 million in settlements from ICBC last year.”

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Under the NDP system, people involved in a crash would only be able to sue each other directly if there are criminal convictions, manufacturing and repair problems, or in cases where businesses over-serve alcohol to a driver.

Otherwise, ICBC would be responsible for handing out compensation, including medical expenses, to all parties involved in a crash, while restricting the money that goes to fighting legal battles. Compensation amounts will be pre-determined by ICBC and based on the types of injuries a driver sustains.

Care decisions would be made by physicians in the new system and the money will be paid out directly to care providers, while money for lost wages will be available to everyone – including students, care providers, and those who are self-employed.

The Liberals’ plan would the choice to purchase vehicle damage coverage and accident benefits directly from the private market. It would also give all new drivers credit for two years of driving experience, increasing to four if they complete driver education.

The latter would lower premiums for new drivers with clean records who demonstrate safe driving habits, say the Liberals, and be available to both new drivers with their own policies and parents with children listed as occasional drivers.

The party would also return premiums charged by ICBC this year.

Union accuses Liberals of ‘handout’

MoveUP, the union representing the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, says drivers’ would pay more under the Liberals’ ICBC proposal, which it called a handout to private insurance companies.

“The evidence is all around us, drivers pay significantly more on average under private insurance,” says MoveUP president David Black. “Much like other proposals we have seen so far from the BC Liberals, there’s no consideration of the harmful effects that it would have on the majority of British Columbians. Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals are living up to their reputation of taking care of the one per cent and not the rest of us.”

MoveUP also accused the Liberals of making false claims about ICBC rates increasing by 39 per cent.

The BC Utilities Commission, which regulates auto insurance rate increases, shows a 6.4 per cent increase was approved for 2018, followed by a 6.3 per cent increase in 2019. There was no increase in 2020, says MoveUP.