Kamloops — Shameful.
That is the reaction of Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal MLA Todd Stone to the NDP's decision to hike ICBC rates.
"We were successful over a previous 10-year period at keeping the combined rate of increase down to less than 17% for B.C. motorists," said Stone. "That's basically in line with inflation. We have seen in one month with the NDP in power that the combined rate increase is going to be 8%."
On Tuesday, B.C. Attorney General David Eby confirmed ICBC is asking the provincial utilties commission to raise rates by 6.4 per cent this year to cover losses totalling over $500 million last year. Eby said optional rates will also rise noting the average driver will see a blended increase of eight per cent.
"I think it's very disappointing," said Stone. "The vast majority of motorists in this province have both the basic and the optional insurance coverages and they're going to pay an additional $130 more now because of this decision the NDP has taken."
He said the move to hike rates comes on the heels of "an array of intitiatives the BC Liberal government implemented the last four years to keep rates as low as possible."
Those initiatives included cracking down on fraud, targeting distracted driving, implementing a new IT system, which he says saved ICBC $90 million, and reducing management and salaries by 50 per cent.
Despite those initiatives, he acknowleged "more needed to be done" — hence his decision to call for an independent, comprehensive, third party review of ICBC, which resulted in a report he thinks Eby didn't even bother to read.
"He in fact appears not to have read the report, which was sitting on his desk. It was finalized and provided to government in July this year, only a month ago. And instead, he opted to delay and dither and defer taking any concrete action to apply downward pressure on rates," said Stone.
Stone says the NDP could've kept rate increases to 4.9% — as the Liberals did the last five years — had the government looked into implementing recommendations put forth in a 203-page report compiled by Ernst & Young this year.
"There are changes that could be made in terms of the scope of coverages that are provided," said Stone. "There are some good opportunities on the litigation and legal side of the equation in terms of looking at how can we speed up the process of claims. How do we get more claims to be settled without having to go to trial."
Stone blamed financial losses on a number of factors, including increased collision rates and lower investment returns.
"There's more claims per collision, which is a disturbing trend we see in British Columbia," said Stone. "The cost of the most minor collisions are escalating at a rapid clip, far greater than even the cost of more serious claims. All of this is resulting in tremendous cost pressures, which ultimately has to flow through to rates."
Eby says it will take a number of years to turn ICBC's financial situation around, and that will start with an audit of the Crown Corporation.
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