I take exception to the assertion in the Times Colonist editorial of 16 November 2019, “No-fault vehicle insurance is unpopular but could ease ICBC troubles”, that some 75,000 claims annually “may very well be exaggerated or outright bogus”. Even if that slur on the integrity of British Columbians were true, all of the judges and juries, defense lawyers and insurance adjusters in the Province are not so categorically stupid that such deceit could succeed on so grand a scale.
For the 34 years leading up to 2008 ICBC worked very well within the tort environment. The average premium increase for the ten years preceding 2008 was less than one percent per year. Current exorbitant premium levels are more rationally explained by the long history of governments siphoning off ICBC cash to fund unrelated activities.
The most blatant example occurred in 2014 when a Liberal government transferred 1.2 billion dollars out of ICBC reserves into general revenue. Missing premium dollars and less interest income equals higher insurance rates. Despite all their bleating about premium increases the NDP hasn’t returned the 1.2 billion dollars.
In 2015 the government directed ICBC to collect outstanding student loans and child support payments. Neither have anything to do with car insurance and yet the cost is left for the rate payer to absorb.
The Motor Vehicle Branch, formerly a separate government department underwritten by general revenues, was jammed into ICBC’s corporate structure. Registration and licensing fees still go to general revenue, but the cost of operation is now borne by ICBC.
Significant operational changes at ICBC were ordered by the government in 2008 in the hopes of increasing the size of the ICBC piggy bank. These changes, together with the plaintiff bar’s reaction, have led to a disastrous, polarized litigation environment that all British Columbians, either as rate payers, or as claimants, or both, must now contend with.
An eye for an eye and soon the whole world goes blind. What is lost sight of here is that less accidents are guaranteed to lead to lower rates and fewer people getting hurt; and that ICBC with its five billion dollar revenue stream, first-hand knowledge of every accident that occurs in the Province, and a mandate to address the mayhem on our roads is at the government’s disposal.
Mr. Eby as the Minister responsible for ICBC must stop bickering with lawyers over process and dramatically shift ICBC’s emphasis to traffic safety. The Times Colonist would do well to encourage that, instead of publicly buying into half-baked conspiracy theories and poorly researched premium rate comparisons.