The select standing committee on provincial finance and government services held a public forum in Kelowna on Thursday to listen to public input about spending priorities for the 2019-20 provincial budget. Photo: Black Press/Barry Gerding

Climate change blamed for $1 billion annual B.C. property damage losses

Insurance Bureau calls for changes to revamp B.C. marketplace

ICBC’s monopoly on B.C.’s vehicle insurance market and impact of climate change were the focus of a submission by the Insurance Bureau of Canada before the provincial select standing committee on finance and government services on Thursday in Kelowna.

Aaron Sutherland, vice-president of the Insurance Bureau’s Pacific region, said B.C. residents are both paying excessively high rates for vehicle insurance compared to other provinces, and are incurring huge damage costs related to floods and wildfires initiated by weather pattern changes.

“With climate change, we see warmer winters and hot and dry summers in B.C. The last two years we have seen record flooding and wildfires,” Sutherland said.

“Since 2009, property damage losses have been at or above $1 billion across B.C.”

Sutherland said since the insurance industry assumes the cost for much of that damage, he called on the province to invest more money in infrastructure protection measures against flooding.

“We have seen some steps taken in that direction but we need to go a lot further,” Sutherland said.

He also raised concerns about the potential damage if a long-predicted major earthquake strikes B.C., saying only about 45 per cent of provincial residents have earthquake insurance.

“Of that 45 per cent, it increases to 60 per cent just within the Vancouver market and 70 per cent on Vancouver Island. But overall, that leaves close to one-half of the market who will need assistance if an earthquake occurs and that is a concern,” he noted, saying the government will be called on to help off-set the damage costs.

“So continuing public awareness is key and educating people to be prepared.”

Sutherland was one of a more than 20 organizations given a five-minute opportunity to make their pitch about what the provincial government priorities should be in the 2019-20 budget.

The select standing committee is chaired by Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith and includes among its six MLAs Liberal Dan Ashton of Penticton.

Similar meetings are being held by the committee across the province, with a final report submitted to the legislature in November.

Many of the speakers focused on the issues of post-secondary education, health, and youth and family services.

Sutherland’s argument about ICBC centred around a Crown agency monopoly shutting out the private insurance marketplace from competition, which has made it slow to react to changing marketplace conditions and rising operating deficits.

“Some reforms are coming for ICBC but none of them address the issue of the affordability challenge for drivers facing escalating insurance rates. Double digit increases are coming in the years ahead,” he said.

And he said the B.C. bad drivers argument doesn’t hold water, noting that in Alberta there are more accidents per capita but basic insurance rates are more than $400 cheaper.

He said ICBC is losing money despite having a monopoly because of operating inefficiencies and a lack of innovation in the marketplace, demands that private insurers respond to quicker to remain in business.

“A bad system is failing and it’s time to look outside for other solutions,” he said.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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