Darcy Repen pictured with his FOI response from ICBC. (Submitted photo)

Council turns down request to formally ask ICBC to correct rural urban rate inequity

Council currently has plans to speak with The Ministry of the Attorney General in September.

Former Telkwa mayor Darcy Repen is requesting that Smithers council get serious when it comes to ICBC insurance rates.

“I am requesting that Smithers council evaluate the more complete data set and documentation that I am now providing and pass a motion which requests that [ICBC] … immediately correct the rural urban rate inequity,” a letter from Repen presented to Council at their July 23 meeting read.

Council did not pass that motion, but instead had a brief discussion about their current plans to meet with The Ministry of the Attorney General at the The Union of B.C. Municipalities’ (UBCM) annual convention being held September 23 to 27 in Vancouver.

“We have written a letter expressing concern based on our initial understanding,” said Mayor Taylor Bachrach.

Coun. Frank Wray noted that he saw the data as valuable information to have going into the conversation.

“I would like to keep this as a next step for after we’ve met with who we are going to meet with, we are armed with better data now for sure and if we feel that we’re not getting anywhere then I think the next thing is a formal request of this nature,” he said, noting that this sort of option could still be used in the future.

“We’re in the process of setting up meetings and … I’d like to go in armed with this data and see what kind of answer we get before [we] start making this kind of demand.”

For Repen’s part, he isn’t happy with the decision.

“I had hoped that our local elected representatives would take action on the issue of Rural British Columbia’s ICBC insurance rates,” he said in a Facebook post.

“[Instead], Smithers Town Council, after receiving a full package of data and correspondence from AG David Eby and ICBC to review, reaffirmed that they will wait until they have met with Minister Eby and ICBC before doing anything more.”

Repen said one of his biggest concerns is that changes to how ICBC calculates its insurance rates are being rolled out September 1, however council is not scheduled to meet with The Ministry of the Attorney General until the end of September.

He said that he feels discriminatory insurance rates are a big enough issue that Council should be acting before these rules have come into effect, adding that it will likely be harder to reverse them once they are in place.

“Bulkley Valley families have been paying thousands of dollars to subsidize urban drivers’ insurance premiums, and I think it’s reasonable to expect our local politicians to fight on our behalf to end this unfair and discriminatory situation.”

Repen is basing his data off off freedom of information (FOI) requests on the data for 18 different postal codes (nine rural and nine urban) in the province.

He started the campaign as part of an effort to determine if — and to what degree — rural drivers are subsidizing Lower Mainland insurance costs through disproportionately high premiums.

ICBC has previously told The Interior News that significant changes coming to how it calculates insurance rates this September will result in two-thirds of drivers across the province paying less than they are today.

“While it’s true that where you live is one of the factors we consider when calculating your premium, it is not the most significant factor – how little or how much you pay in our new model will be based more heavily on your years of driving experience and crash history,” said Joanna Linsangan, spokesperson for ICBC, in an email.

“While we have no immediate plans to re-examine the boundaries for our existing rating territories, we have made adjustments to the territory factor in response to the changes in population and infrastructure. Starting September of this year, Telkwa residents will see a decrease of 3.5 per cent to their territory factor and the decreases will continue over 10 years totalling approximately 30 per cent.”

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