Canadian Underwriter

Sound and Fury

March 7, 2020   by David Gambrill, Editor in Chief

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A Battle Royale is going on right now in B.C. for the hearts and minds of drivers in one of Canada’s Top 3 auto insurance markets. It’s an age-old, epic political debate about which is better — public or private auto insurance? (See our poll results on Page 12.)

In the left corner of the political arena, we have the reigning champion, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC), an auto insurance company owned by the provincial government. The Crown corporation is endorsed by the Insurance Brokers Association of B.C. (IBABC).

In the right corner, we have the challenger, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), the association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. They are endorsed by the opposition B.C. Liberal Party, which has  proclaimed it is at least open to the idea of making ICBC compete with private insurers for the province’s basic auto insurance product. (Note that the party has said this before and changed its mind.) Such a change would be predicated on the Liberals winning the next provincial election, which will be held on or before Oct. 16, 2021. I am not going to predict the winners and losers in this epic struggle. Consumers will do that at the ballot box.

That said, the debate is an important one. And it would be nice if it prompted a broader discussion of how auto insurance is manufactured and delivered across the country generally. Which systems work? Which systems don’t work? Can the best parts of auto insurance in one area be tweaked to work in a different jurisdiction?

Some on social media contend that the debate about public v. private auto insurance is in fact a red herring. In today’s hard market, they argue, claims costs are too high for both public and private insurers alike. All Canadian auto insurers need to find a way to reduce their claims costs — pronto.

The P&C industry needs to sharpen its focus on two fundamental things right now: endorsing ways for Canadians to drive safely; and finding ways to keep repair costs down despite the car manufacturers’ drive to produce bigger, more technologically-advanced cars.

The rest, to quote Faulkner, is all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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