Thank goodness for people who sink their teeth into a good cause and won’t let go.
For years, Darcy Repen suspected Telkwans were getting a raw deal on auto insurance rates.
He was right, but he had to doggedly hound ICBC for the data that would prove it.
He initially found some of what he needed in the Crown corporation’s own published territory data. It showed Lower Mainland drivers, while paying slightly higher rates than northern motorists, were also receiving more claim dollars per premium dollar spent.
But that didn’t give Repen granular enough information that he could definitively show the extent of the the inequity at a local level.
So, the former Telkwa mayor, set about going after the provincial insurer’s postal code by postal code data. But it would have cost a fortune in FOI (freedom of information) fees to get everything all at once, so he enlisted the help of others to get the data two postal codes at a time.
Each individual made an FOI request for one northern and one southern postal code.
As that data started to roll in, preliminary analysis started to reveal the inequity in ratios of premiums versus claims.
Repen continued by lobbying municipalities to put pressure on the province and ICBC to come clean.
Local governments responded and a resolution was passed at the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual convention to that effect.
Eventually, all the data was released and it showed rate payers in the Lower Mainland were spending $1.35 for every dollar they were being paid. For rural motorists in general the ratio was $1.84:$1, for northerners in general $1.96:$1 and for V0J (including Smithers, Telkwa and the Hazeltons and everything north to Telegraph Creek and east to Vanderhoof it was $2.15:$1.
Meanwhile, the province changed the insurance rules to a no litigation system and forced ICBC to give us all rebates for overcharging us in the past and the Crown corp applied to the B.C. Utilities Commission for a 15 per cent reduction.
Most of us were happy enough to cash our rebate cheques and watch our insurance rates go down.
But not Repen. Even though rates continue to go down, they are going down across the board, meaning the disproptionate ratio we spend compared to our Vancouver and Victoria counterparts remains the same.
So he applied to BCUC for intervenor status arguing that while they were reducing the rates they should also put a stop to the “discriminatory policy” of geographical rate disparity.
The BCUC dismissed Repen’s submissions saying they were beyond the scope of the proceeding and the commission did not have the authority to change the insurer’s rate design.
Not to be deterred, Repen is back to lobbying local governments to support another resolution for the next UBCM session requesting a new basic insurance rate design be implemented that addresses regional inequities.
It’s all about fairness.
The North may never win this fight — frankly, the politics of vote concentration in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island is against us — but fairness is always worth fighting for.