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Councillor expresses disappointment with ICBC explanation for rate disparity

The Town voted unanimously to send a letter to ICBC asking a number of questions
ICBC president and CEO Nicolas Jimenez. (Black Press File photo)

One Smithers councillor feels the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) isn’t doing enough when it comes to answering for a number of questions on disparity between rural and urban insurance premiums.

At their Mar. 10 meeting council voted unanimously to forward a letter from Telkwa resident Darcy Repen to ICBC.

In the letter Repen expressed his disappointment with how the Feb. 11 delegation between ICBC CEO Nicolas Jimenez and council transpired.

“Council also stated that it understood the questions I was seeking answers to, and that it would ask the questions directly when the [ICBC] appeared as a delegation to Council,” the letter said.

“On Feb.11, 2020 during the CEO’s delegation, Smithers Council decided not to ask the questions and request answers.”

As a result of his lack of satisfaction from the meeting, Repen asked council write a letter to Attorney General David Eby, Minister of Rural Affairs and Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson and Jimenez asking a number of questions related to the disparity between rural and urban premiums in the Province.

READ MORE: Repen: FOI data proves Telkwans being ripped off by ICBC

Not to be confused with the above letter, council also had a letter in the correspondence portion of their agenda for the meeting from Eby related to council’s meeting with the Attorney General at the 2019 Union of BC Municipalities’ conference in Vancouver.

In his letter Eby noted the issue of auto insurnace rates is an important issue to people in the Bulkley Valley and pointed to a number of initiatives ICBC has rolled out, including rate readjustments that better reflect risk and a territorial factor reduction over the next ten years.

“I agree that the readjustment of premiums will take longer than is preferred, given the complexity of its application, but I have requested that ICBC move as quickly as possible,” said Eby.

But for at least one councillor, this answer seemed to be lacking.

“Conspicuously absent from that letter is a follow up on the promise for not Mr. Jimenez to come but actually Minister Eby,” said Wray.

The councillor added that while he didn’t always see 100 per cent eye-to-eye with Repen with regard to the situation but agreed he felt many of Jimenez’s answers were insufficient, especially regarding rate inequality.

“The answer I heard from Mr. Jimenez was, not in so many words, [that] we’re trying to fix ICBC and we don’t really care to fix this problem at the time,” he said.

“To me, that’s not an acceptable answer. Our citizens own ICBC, as well as the citizens down south and I don’t really think that we should be subsidizing to this extent.”

Repen began a massive freedom-of-information campaign into differences in premium and claims costs across the Province back in 2019. The results of those requests he has received so far (Repen’s campaign is currently ongoing) have shown large differences between the amounts of premiums paid by residents versus the amount the receive back in claims from the Crown corporation.

For example, according to the FOI data, over the last five years, V0J 2X0 residents paid a little over $5.5 million more in total ICBC premiums than they received in total claims.

When The Interior News spoke to Repen following Jimenez’s delegation to council, he likened the ICBC CEO’s interaction with council to “jedi mind tricks”, saying he was amazed council didn’t push him harder on the important questions.

“Everybody forgot why he was actually there,” said Repen. “He wasn’t there to give a presentation … he was supposed to be there to answer the question about disparity in rural and urban rates and specifically the numbers in the FOI.”
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