British Columbia

B.C. drivers to receive average of $190 each from ICBC pandemic rebate

B.C. drivers are going to get a partial refund on their car insurance, the province announced Tuesday, with the rebates coming from money ICBC saved during the pandemic.

Cheques will begin rolling out in March, premier says

ICBC claims centre is pictured in Vancouver on Tuesday. The province has announced drivers will receive an average of $190 from an ICBC rebate drawn from money the corporation has saved during the pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. drivers are going to get a partial refund on their car insurance, the province announced Tuesday, with the rebates coming from the hundreds of millions ICBC saved during the pandemic.

The average rebate will come out to $190 per driver, but could be as high as $400.

Premier John Horgan said the one-time rebate, which should begin rolling out by cheque in mid-March, is drawn from net savings of $600 million ICBC saw from April 1 to Sept. 30. As people continue to work from home and socialize less, there have been fewer cars on the road and "a major decrease" in crashes.

The rebates are available to those who held policies during that six-month period, except customers with short-term, storage or distance-based policies "whose premiums already reflect lower usage."

Rebate delayed over ICBC's shaky history: minister

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the $600-million is the largest COVID-19 rebate offered to date in Canada, but it has taken far longer to roll out than those other provinces. The idea of a rebate has been floating around in B.C. for at least six months, after savings added up during the first round of restrictions in the spring.

Farnworth said the province delayed the rebate because it wanted to be sure ICBC was on steady ground before giving away its savings, given its history of serious financial disaster.

"We have been prudent and we have been cautious," Farnworth said. 

"We wouldn't be here if we didn't think this was achievable," Horgan added.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announces the ICBC rebate on Tuesday. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

ICBC saw 35 per cent fewer claims from April to September, saving the corporation $720 million. The net savings only came out to $600 million because ICBC also lost $120 million in its usual revenue from premiums.

There are roughly 2.8 million people in B.C. eligible for the rebate.

The partial refund is about 19 per cent of the premium customers paid for their coverage during the six-month period. It is also separate from the average 20 per cent in savings drivers have been promised when ICBC moves to an enhanced care model on May 1.

Kris Sims, B.C. director of Canadian Taxpayers Federation, says the ICBC rebates are too little and too late and it's time to consider privatizing the province's car insurance industry.

"We are usually [paying] the highest cost for auto insurance in Canada, and being locked into that as a government-forced monopoly is just completely unfair," she said on CBC's Daybreak South on Wednesday. 

With files from Daybreak South