British Columbia’s attorney general says the province will “supercharge” an office that deals with complaints against the Insurance Corp. of B.C. in an effort to increase public trust in the Crown auto insurer.
David Eby made the announcement as one of several moves that he says will increase transparency and accountability at ICBC.
The government will also require the auto insurer to post its annual reports online in “plain language,” so that the average person can understand the financial health of the Crown corporation and how premiums are calculated.
And individuals who accept pre-litigation payments from ICBC will no longer be barred from later suing the corporation, a move that Eby said may reduce the number of cases that actually end up in court.
ICBC already has a fairness office with a $200,000 budget, but Eby said it is hard to find and there’s no statutory obligation for ICBC to respond to its recommendations.
Under the changes, the commissioner will be appointed by cabinet, complaints can be filed online and the nature of complaints, the commissioner’s recommendations and ICBC’s responses must be posted publicly in plain language.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that many British Columbians simply don’t trust ICBC,” Eby said at a news conference Wednesday.
“That’s a problem because British Columbians deserve the peace of mind of knowing that if they’re injured in a crash and they ask a public insurance provider for help, they need to know they will be well taken care of.”
The New Democrats “inherited a mess,” when they took power and discovered ICBC was operating with billion-dollar deficits and projections showed massive increases to premiums for drivers would be required to break even.
“The fact that this information was not available to the public before the 2017 election is just one more example of why more transparency is needed at the corporation,” he said.
Since then, ICBC’s finances have stabilized and accident rates have gone down thanks to road safety initiatives. But the government is still working toward a goal of decreasing premiums and establishing trust in the Crown corporation, he said.
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has called for more choice in the sector after a report by accounting firm MNP found B.C. residents pay up to 42 per cent more for car insurance compared to drivers in Alberta.
Wilkinson said the report concluded that B.C. and Alberta have similar insurance coverage and systems, but the difference is that Alberta allows choice and free-market competition.
Eby said Wednesday that he has considered the option of privatizing insurance but that his office has been unable to replicate the modelling promised by the private sector. Under independent analysis, he said moving to a private insurance model would actually increase premiums for almost all drivers, except for one third of drivers older than 45.
The NDP caucus has previously responded that privatizing car insurance could result in double-digit rate increases, saying that the Alberta government recently removed a rate cap, which allowed rates to skyrocket up to 30 per cent.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2020.