Make ICBC a co-op to solve financial problems, says Canadian Taxpayers Federation

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is proposing a fix for B.C.'s beleaguered auto insurance corporation: make it a co-op, and allow private insurers to sell basic auto insurance to increase competition.

Advocacy calls for private-public mix as provincial auto insurer faces financial crisis

The Canadian Federation of Taxpayers wants to make ICBC a co-op and allow private insurers to sell basic auto insurance. (David Horemans/CBC)

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is proposing a fix for B.C.'s beleaguered auto insurance corporation: make it a co-op, and allow private insurers to sell basic auto insurance to increase competition.

The advocacy group is proposing a model that would have the corporation owned by policy holders, similar to companies like VanCity or Mountain Equipment Co-op.

"We thought this was a nice Goldilocks mix," said the group's director, Kris Sims. "You know, keep [public insurance] if you want it, but make it so that it has less political interference and open up the market to competition so that we'll have some lower rates."

The federation's proposal comes on the heels of a recent report that found ICBC to be in dire financial shape, and that premiums may have to rise up to 30 per cent in the next two years to compensate.

NDP leery of privatization

But critics of the federation's report say it's an attempt to push privatization.

"What they really want to do is split up the optional and the basic [coverage], and then turn the basic into some kind of co-op," said policy critic Richard McCandless. "But it doesn't make sense. It seems very complex."

David Eby, the minister in charge of ICBC, is not sold on a private-public mix. He says the current problems stem from the previous Liberal government using money from the corporation for non-ICBC-related spending. He says the solution is to keep ICBC revenue within the Crown corporation.

"It's not as simple as public-private," Eby said.

"ICBC has in the past, and I believe can again, provide low, affordable rates as well as significant benefits to the public in the form of money for enforcement, driver's license administration and other public services."

With files from Tanya Fletcher.

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