Former Telkwa mayor Darcy Repen is continuing a five-year campaign to have ICBC eliminate rate differences between urban and rural areas by submitting his final argument this week to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) which regulates the crown corporation.
Up until now Repen has been relying on postal code comparisons to bolster his position that rural ICBC ratepayers pay more than urban ones do in premiums compared to claims settlements.
This time he has ICBC’s own data going back to 2000 which he says adds credence to his argument.
The postal code data, which Repen used to establish what was paid in premiums compared to what was paid out in settlements in specific areas of the province, gave him a base line of urban drivers paying $1.34 for each dollar paid out compared to the $1.83 for rural drivers.
The new data provided through BCUC hearings into ICBC’s rate application for this year has given Repen a different look at premiums versus settlements but one that confirms his argument.
“What this data shows is that at least from 2012 onward, lower mainland drivers’ rates are being subsidized and we are not only paying for our insurance but building up a significant account within ICBC,” he says.
“In fact, urban drivers are getting a discount of at least 50 per cent on their insurance.”
Repen’s equally bothered by what has happened to the money paid by rural drivers that’s over and above ICBC’s costs.
“We know this money was taken out by the BC Liberal governments to use as general revenue and we all know it went into the urban areas. I wouldn’t mind so much if the rates were fair but they aren’t and this is a matter of equity and fairness,” he said.
ICBC has been sending out refunds but these are based on fewer claims being paid out because of decreased traffic during the pandemic and its rate application now before BCUC seeks an average 20 per cent reduction because costs are being reduced by eliminating what was a litigation-based claims system.
Repen does acknowledge these reductions but says they are system-wide.
“The new system perpetuates the inequity. Nothing in the new revenue requirement application addresses the territorial factor in their rate calculation formula,” he said.
There’s no date set for a decision from the BCUC regarding ICBC’s rate application but Repen’s hoping both ICBC and the province will address the inequity.
Repen has intervenor status before the commission and is one of several interested parties to have similar status.
“I’ve recommended two potential options for doing this. One involves an accepted actuarial practice approach on a postal code level. They state this is their objective provincially, but they currently ignore the regional inequity, allowing urban drivers to have their insurance subsidized while rural drivers cover the burden of costs,” said Repen.
“The second option is to split ICBC into two insurance pools, ‘rural’ and ‘urban.’”
Repen doesn’t believe the disparity is a deliberate attack on rural drivers but that ICBC is fully aware of the rate differences.
“I think it’s just that the bureaucrats at ICBC are on the lower mainland,” he said.
Repen’s campaign dates back to 2016 when he was mayor of Telkwa and the council of the day realized there was an arbitrary rate difference dividing line between Smithers and Telkwa.
“When ICBC refused to correct this for no specific reason I began taking a closer look at ICBC claims and premiums data,” he said.