Pandemic Payouts: NDP win in B.C. could see drivers finally getting ICBC savings paid back

Victoria, British Columbia – Drivers in British Columbia could finally be granted some much-deserved reprieve with respect to auto insurance rates, thanks to provincial NDP leader John Horgan’s election win over the weekend.

The B.C. NDPs made it a campaign promise, early in October, to make good on a commitment to offer rebates to customers after the province’s Crown auto insurer reported a nearly 50 percent drop in claims at the height of pandemic lockdowns, resulting in $158 million in savings.

In February, Horgan’s NDPs announced an overhaul of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). At the time, plans were made for the government to return about $400 in savings back to customers in the form of a cheque rebate.

The intention was to pivot focus and provide care to only “those most seriously injured”, aligning the province more closely with the “no-fault” insurance models of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The goal in doing so, for the NDP government, would be to cut out the often expensive litigation costs associated with taking claims to court. This model instead would pay out customers regardless of fault. 

As of February, the average auto insurance premium rate in B.C. was $1,900, a figure which the NDP’s projected to drop by 20 percent to $1,500.

Under the new ICBC overhaul, drivers are still free to sue if someone involved in a crash receives a criminal charge, or if it is proven that the manufacturer or repair facility has done faulty work.

As well, the new system claims to offer $7.5 million in medical and rehabilitation benefits, compared to $300,000 under the current system. Such benefits would include services like massage therapy, chiropractic care and physiotherapy. 

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating an unforeseen roadblock for government and business alike, the NDP government elected in May to forgo insurance rebates for the time being, until a clearer picture of ICBC’s financial situation could be formed. 

At this point in time, it was found that B.C.’s private insurers had already managed to return between 10 to 25 percent of their rates back to their customers.

With the NDP’s win in this election, B.C.’s Attorney General and Vancouver-Point Grey NDP MLA David Eby says he plans to have rebate cheques in drivers’ hands by May 1, 2021, when the new ICBC rate changes officially take effect.

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