Earlier reports suggested rates could climb by up to 30 per cent
By Jake Wray, News Editor
The NDP government has announced that basic insurance rates will increase by 6.4 per cent this year, following a widely-circulated report that recommended a 20 per cent increase in ICBC rates in 2016.
The report, compiled by accounting firm Ernst & Young and released by the BC government, said a 30 per cent increase by 2019 would be necessary if ICBC was to continue covering all of its costs using revenue generated from insurance premiums. Some Douglas College students expressed concern at the findings of the report, citing the financial pressures of being a student. Now, Attorney General David Eby has announced that the government will minimize rate increases and begin several initiatives to “Fix the public insurer’s financial crisis,” according to a BC government press release.
“Drastic action is needed to fix ICBC’s devastating financial crisis, but BC drivers should not be forced to pay 20 per cent basic rate hikes today because of mismanagement that goes back years,” Eby said in the press release. “Our commitment to British Columbians is to make life more affordable for them. Forcing 20 per cent rate increases on drivers is a non-starter.”
The planned 6.4 per cent increase this year is roughly in line with increases in recent years. Rates increased by 4.9 per cent in 2016 and 5.5 per cent in 2015, according to a statement on the ICBC website, which also says that ICBC has been facing drastically higher costs due to a number of factors including a sharp rise in accident claims and increased vehicle repair costs.
The BC government will audit ICBC’s operations, introduce a pilot project for “Distracted driving reduction technology,” implement a distracted driving advertising campaign, and undertake a number of other initiatives attempting to reduce costs at ICBC, according to the press release.
Eby blamed the situation at ICBC on the previous Liberal government, who Eby accused of mismanaging the insurance agency.
“It’s unacceptable for government to treat ICBC like an ATM machine, and it cost BC drivers more than $1 billion,” he said in the press release. “Our government is working overtime to clean up the mess we inherited in a way that minimizes impacts on drivers.”
But some BC Liberals stand by their handling of ICBC. Todd Stone, a Liberal MLA who was the minister of transportation and infrastructure in the previous government, said his government kept ICBC rate increases low.
“We were successful over a previous 10-year period at keeping the combined rate of increase down to less than 17 per cent for BC motorists,” Stone said in an interview with Kamloops radio station CFJC Today. “That’s basically in line with inflation. We have seen in one month with the NDP in power that the combined rate increase is going to be 8 per cent.”