British Columbia

Less traffic, fewer collisions could lead to money back for B.C. drivers: Eby

B.C. Attorney General David Eby says drivers could be getting rebates after the end of ICBC's fiscal year due to a decrease in collisions this year — owed largely to reduced driving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AG David Eby says the pandemic has put ICBC on the path toward a surplus

The BC Greens gained ground in NDP MLA David Eby's riding of Vancouver-Point Grey. (MIke McArthur/CBC)

B.C. Attorney General David Eby says drivers could receive a rebate after the end of ICBC's fiscal year, due to a decrease in collisions in 2020.

Eby said any rebates that may be issued would not come until after the end of this fiscal year, which ends April 30, 2021, because of the corporation's fragile finances.

When the NDP government came into power, it blamed the previous B.C. Liberal government for amassing a deficit of $1.3 billion.

"Issuing a rebate cheque right now would not be a responsible thing to do until we know where these finances are going to land as a result of the pandemic," Eby said on Monday in Victoria.

Eby said three main factors affect ICBC's finances: the number of collisions and resulting auto repairs and injury compensation, the corporation's investments, which are tied to money that has yet to be paid out to injured people, and the number of insurance plans people purchase, renew, or cancel.

He said many people cancelled their insurance to purchase a less expensive plan once their driving habits changed due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the summer months regularly see an increase in people buying insurance for vehicles like RVs or collector cars.

'Trends positive'

"So far this year, things are looking very good for our public insurers, because of changes we've made previously around how more minor injuries are handled, as well as the fact that fewer people are driving so there are fewer accidents, and the trends are positive," said Eby.

The Attorney General said if there's a surplus at ICBC, a new law passed by his government ensures it goes directly back to drivers, rather than government coffers. He said it could take the form of rebates, reduced future rates, or a combination of both.

Eby said regardless of whether the current trend continues until May, resulting in a significant annual surplus, most drivers can expect savings in the spring.

ICBC is switching to what it calls an enhanced care model of insurance, which according to Eby, will result in an average of 20 per cent lower rates.

If a driver paid for a year's worth of insurance, the difference for any that extends beyond May 1 will be refunded.