British Columbia

B.C. government launches review of ICBC rates

The B.C. government has launched a review of ICBC's basic insurance rates that it says will ensure future increases are in line with inflation. Transportation Minister Todd Stone has asked ICBC's board to commission a comprehensive independent third-party review that would examine a range of options.

ICBC basic insurance rates have gone up more than 30 per cent since Christy Clark became premier

Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced changes to insurance for luxury vehicles in front of a damaged Ferrari on November 23, 2016. (CBC News)

The B.C. government has launched a review of ICBC's basic insurance rates that it says will ensure future increases are in line with inflation.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone has asked ICBC's board to commission an independent third-party review that would look at multiple options for keeping rates down. 

"This is about fairness and sustainability. It is also the job of government to ensure that ICBC remains a financially viable organization," said Stone. "We are not looking for short-term solutions. That would only set us up to pay more down the road."

Rates up more than 30 per cent over 6 years

The province has asked the British Columbia Utilities Commission to approve a basic rate increase of a maximum of 4.9 per cent or less by Jan. 16, 2017 for next year, a rate increase originally announced in August. 

Skyrocketing claims, increases in cases of insurance fraud and more injury claims have led the public insurer to project a worst-case scenario rate increase of 42 per cent by 2020. The provincial government has been facing criticism over basic insurances rates that have gone up more than 30 per cent since Premier Christy Clark took office.

One of the challenges facing the province is that between mid- 2015 to mid-2016, the number of vehicle damage claims increased by 11 per cent and the number of injury claims increased by 14 per cent. The province is also struggling to get a grip on injury claims that have gone up 60 per cent between 2008 and 2015.

The review is expected to be completed after the provincial election but before the rate is set for 2017-18. The province also conducted a review in 2012. 

"The review that we are announcing here today is quite different than any review that has been done at ICBC.  Previous review have looked at governance and claims management practices," said Stone. "This review will look at the entire spectrum of ICBC's operation."

"This is really going to be a soup to nuts review of ICBC, the broad spectrum of what ICBC does and how it does it."

NDP blames Liberal policies for rate increases

What Stone says is off the table is the privatization of the public insurer. 

NDP ICBC critic Adrian Dix says this is clearly a pre-election ploy by a government that has failed to keep increases at inflation levels. Dix said the B.C. Utilities Commission is in the midst of conducting a review and the independent commission should be allowed to do its work without another review looming. 

"This is awful," said Dix. "Most of the causes of their problems have gotten worse since their last review in 2012. The Liberal party acted on the review and things have gotten worse because of Liberal policy."

"They laid off front-line staff, so unpaid claims have gone up exponentially. The decision has cost them and ratepayers tons of money."