New Brunswick’s opposition Liberals say partisan appointments may have contributed to consumers being overcharged for car insurance in recent years.
Two reports released this week suggest that New Brunswick drivers were overcharged hundreds of millions of dollars on their auto insurance between 2003 and 2008.
On Monday, actuarial expert Paula Elliot presented evidence to the New Brunswick Insurance Board suggesting New Brunswick drivers likely paid $500 million too much for their auto insurance over a five-year period ending in 2008. On Tuesday, the Insurance Board itself released a study that said almost the same thing.
That document showed while auto insurance companies should have made pre-tax profits between 2003 and 2007 of about $165 million in New Brunswick, they actually made $610 million.
It's an excess paid by New Brunswick drivers, and amounts to more than $1,000 per car over a five-year period.
Liberals say the New Brunswick Insurance Board, headed by a Conservative appointee, is to blame.
"When is this government going to stand up in the best interests of those rate payers?" opposition leader Victor Boudreau asked Wednesday.
The Liberals blame the board, which was set up in 2005 to watch over auto insurance companies and headed by Conservative appointee Paul d'Astous, for not properly doing its job.
On Wednesday, opposition Liberals demanded the Alward government make changes to the board, after its credibility was questioned by the highest court in the province.
The New Brunswick Court of Appeal ordered the 2010 rate application by Dominion of Canada General Insurance be reheard, and banned the members of the New Brunswick Insurance Board who were at the original hearing from taking part.
"They said the Insurance Board, led by a faithful Tory appointee, didn't do its job," Boudreau said. "They even ordered him not to be part of the rate hearing this past Monday because his involvement was so problematic."
Conservatives say that while d'Astous was appointed to chair the board when it was created, over half the board's members are old Liberal appointees.
The board's website lists members including former Liberal MP Maurice Harquail, former Liberal MLA Al Kavanaugh, and Liberal insider Jean Guy Richard.
Justice Minister Marie-Claude Blais said she will consider changes to the N.B. Insurance Board, but only after Dominion's rate application is decided for the second time.
While the court ruling said the board made a mess of the initial hearing, it doesn't cite d'Astous's partisan ties.
"I didn't want to go in the House and throw names around," Blais said, "but there are people really close to the Liberal party within that board so let's be honest here."