Darcy Repen pictured in front of his car holding an FOI response he received from ICBC in April. At the 2019 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) held Sept 23-27 in Vancouver Smithers Council met with CEO of ICBC Nicolas Jimenez and Attorney General David Eby to discuss Repen’s findings. Council also asked ICBC officials they spoke with if they’d be open to sending representatives to the region to answer public questions about how insurance rates are decided and what the Crown Corporation is doing to lower rates for rural drivers. Councillor Gladys Atrill said the organization did not reject the request and the Town is hoping to follow up with both ICBC and the Ministry of The Attorney General to hopefully have them come and speak to people in the area directly. (Contributed photo)

Smithers Council asks ICBC to come north and answer questions

ICBC said they are open to sending people to the area to answer public questions on insurance rates

Rural residents who feel like they’re paying too much for insurance could soon have a chance to voice their concerns to ICBC officials.

At the 2019 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) held Sept 23-27 in Vancouver Smithers Council met with CEO of ICBC Nicolas Jimenez and Attorney General David Eby.

The main purpose of the meeting was to review urban and rural rates in light of information which had been supplied to council at their July 23 meeting by former Telkwa mayor Darcy Repen.

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

Repen had originally requested that Council pass a motion requesting “that [ICBC] … immediately correct the rural-urban rate inequity.”

Instead, Council resolved to bring up the discussion to Eby, who they were already scheduled to meet with at UBCM.

Coun. Gladys Atrill said the explanation ICBC gave council referenced a gradual decrease in rural territorial factors and a gradual increase in urban territories over the next 10 years that ICBC began in September.

Telkwa residents, for example, will see a decrease of 3.5 per cent to their territory factor over the next 10 years, totalling approximately 30 per cent.

However Atrill acknowledged this doesn’t change the reality of insurance rates for people in the Bulkley Valley.

“That might be not quite adequate redress for people if they’re paying too much right now.”

Repen said the information ICBC discussed was not new and he sees their reiteration of their territorial rate changes to Council as an implicit admission that those living in rural areas are paying disproportionately high insurance rates.

“At this point we have provided an analysis based on ICBC’s own data that shows that the amount paid in premiums versus the claims payouts amounts are extremely different in the urban and rural areas, so at this point I believe the burden is on ICBC to reply with an explanation of why that’s the case.

“For them to come up and sort of rehash the same things we’ve heard … is basically an implicit admission that they’ll be overcharging us for ten years.”

With that in mind, Council also came to the meeting asking ICBC another question: if the insurer was open to sending representatives to the region to answer any questions the public might have about insurance rates.

“The second part was just asking that ICBC and the Ministry of the Attorney General, if there are going to be convos about this, that they come here themselves and answer the questions,” Atrill said.

“It does feel that council is trying to answer questions on behalf of an organization that isn’t ours and so we did ask them just to answer the questions directly to citizens who have questions.”

Atrill said the organization seemed open to the ask. “That wasn’t rejected, so it’s my hope to be able to follow that up with both ICBC and the Ministry of The Attorney General to hopefully have them come and speak to people directly.”

Atrill said she thought this was the best way to provide answers to the public about an issue that has been raised multiple times over the past year.

“It just felt like … we’re being asked by citizens to try to help make sense of this, which is completely fair, but at the end of the day I’m not the person whose going to understand the intricacies of how ICBC does business or why it makes decisions.

“I think it’s better if the corporation explains that on its own behalf.”

For Repen’s part, he believes if the Crown corporation does send people up north they should be ready to answer some tough questions.

“If ICBC is sending people up I hope they send them up with some explanation of why, you know, the V6B postal code in Vancouver is being subsidized by 30 million dollars a year and meanwhile Smithers and Telkwa are paying exponentially more than what we are receiving in claims payouts.

“I think it’s time to get past the well-rehearsed and rehashed ICBC mantra of ‘we’re going through big changes and location isn’t the most important thing’ and for them to sit down and to actually provide an analysis that shows why the data that we provided isn’t reflective of what’s actually going on.

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

Repen is basing his calculations on data from various freedom of information (FOI) requests he and others submitted this year on how much in total premiums and claims various postal codes paid across the Province over the last five years.

The actual average premiums are not anywhere close to double, but Repen is factoring in the disparity based on claims cost per policies in force. For example, in 2016, the average claims cost per policies-in-force for Lower Mainland drivers was $2,102 compared to $769 for north central motorists.

According to the FOI data, over the last five years, V0J 2X0 (which encompasses a large part of Telkwa) residents paid a little over $5.5 million more in total ICBC premiums than they received in total claims.

That works out to an average of a little over $1.1 million a year, or 256 per cent of Telkwa policy holders’ average annual insurance costs, Repen said.


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