Troy Lifford denies insurance advocate's office being closed

Justice Minister Troy Lifford is denying reports it is shutting down the office that handles complaints against insurance companies.

Ronald Godin says he was told 2 weeks ago the independent office will close at the end of 2014

The New Brunswick government is denying reports it is shutting down the independent office that handles complaints against insurance companies. 

Justice Minister Troy Lifford says no decision has been made to eliminate the consumer advocate for insurance, even though the advocate himself says that is what he was told.

Justice Minister Troy Lifford said the insurance advocate's position is being reviewed. But he is denying the independent office is being eliminated.
"I wouldn't jump to any conclusions because the office may continue to run the way it is today. It may change but it remains to be seen on how that will work,” said Lifford.

Lifford says he is not sure when a final decision on the future of a consumer advocate will be made by the provincial government.

New Brunswick drivers make nearly 50,000 auto accident claims each year. 

Ronald Godin, the province’s consumer advocate, has been called for help many times. He was appointed in 2004 and his office officially opened in 2005.

"This office was created to give a voice to consumers and to have someone to speak on their behalf, and to create some sort of balance as between the great powers of the insurance industry and the consumers who felt they were voiceless and powerless,” said Godin.

Godin said in an interview he was been told by the Alward government two weeks ago that his office is going to be shut down by the end of the year.

New Brunswick's consumer advocate for insurance, Ron Godin, says he was told his office will be closed at the end of December. (CBC)
The independent office was created by the former Progressive Conservative government of Bernard Lord after the 2003 election.

Godin was an early critic of excessive insurance company profits. He represented the public at Insurance Board hearings as well as handling consumer complaints.

Lifford confirms Godin's office is under review but says there has been no decision yet to end it.

In 2011, Bernard Richard, a former ombudsman, wrote a report looking at ways to reform the number of independent legislative officers in New Brunswick.

In that report, Richard recommended the insurance advocate’s position be folded into the ombudsman’s responsibilities as of Jan. 1, 2015 and the advocate’s budget be transferred to the Office of the Ombudsman.