Change of course needed for ICBC

It’s time the provincial government looked at ending the monopoly on automobile insurance

The hand steering the course may be new, but all indications suggest the destination is the same for auto insurance.

A report released this week suggests BC’s rates could increase by as much as 30 per centin the next two years.

The new Attorney General David Eby was quick to downplay the report by Ernst & Young, saying “a 30 per cent rate increase will not be happening on our watch.” While the NDP government can certainly limit the amount of ICBC rate increases, there’s no escaping the underlying fact there are serious problems with the province’s government-run program.

The report was commissioned by the previous Liberal government, which had long neglected the major overhaul needed by the Crown corporation.

“ICBC has been careening toward a crisis over at least the last couple of years,” said Eby, who accused the previous government of using ICBC as a “bank machine” to help top up general revenue.

Eby first call to action is something the previous Liberal government long avoided – hiking rates of drivers causing crashes.

But ending the subsidy to BC’s worst drivers won’t be enough to reverse the problems caused through years of neglect. The province has brought about minor adjustments to ICBC, most recently when the previous government announced cars worth more than $150,000 would no longer be covered. That will do little to turn the corporation’s fortunes around. The Ernst & Young report says accident rates increased by 23 per cent between 2013 and 2016, and vehicle repair costs skyrocketed to a total of $1.5 billion in 2016. That’s more than a bit of tinkering can repair.

After enjoying a monopoly over the province’s auto insurance market for more than four decades, perhaps the time has come to let B.C. drivers shop around. It’s an idea the new NDP government should at least take out for a test drive.

editor@oakbaynews.com

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