District of Houston council proposes a separate ICBC insurance pool for rural areas. (file photo)

The north, rural areas deserve own ICBC rates, says Houston council

Matter to be considered at provincial convention this fall

The District of Houston has passed a first hurdle in a campaign to have ICBC establish a separate insurance pool for northern and rural B.C.

A resolution sponsored by Houston council was accepted earlier this month by northern local governments belonging to the North Central Local Government Association and will now be considered when all of B.C.’s local governments meet in Vancouver this September.

The resolution states a separate pool into which premiums would be paid and claim monies then disbursed from that pool would “ensure there is balance in the value of insurance premiums paid and claims settlements paid out in each B.C. postal code.”

Its preamble states “publicly available data indicates that rural B.C. residents are paying substantially more in ICBC insurance premiums than they are receiving in claims settlements and payouts.”

Read More: ICBC’s treatment of the north revealed

But the resolution also indicates ICBC has not released specific data pertaining to the total amount rural residents have paid in ICBC premiums versus what has been paid out over the past five years.

“ICBC holds a vehicle insurance monopoly in B.C. and has made a strong public commitment to fairness in pricing,” the resolution continues.

The Houston resolution follows on research, including freedom of information requests to ICBC, conducted by former Telkwa mayor Darcy Repen.

Based on his research in which he compared ICBC data tied to urban and rural postal codes, Repen is convinced Telkwa area residents are paying approximately 2.5 times in premiums annually compared to what is being paid out in claims and other settlements.

That ratio is far in excess when compared to urban areas, he says.

“We’re getting severely ripped off,” Repen said in an April 2019 story published by The Interior News in Smithers.

With the Houston resolution now passed by northern local governments, it’ll be included with others also passed and forwarded to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) for consideration.

“If this resolution is endorsed by delegates at the convention in September, it would be conveyed to ICBC for response. Any further representations would be a matter for determination post-convention,” said UBCM official Paul Taylor.

Repen thanked the Houston council for moving the issue forward.

“ICBC’s insurance premium rates definitely have a huge impact on Houston residents,” he said.

“It is definitely a province-wide issue, and I believe the total annual value of the overcharging of rural British Columbians will be revealed to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The challenge, Repen continued, is to have ICBC release more data comparing insurance premiums and claim payout across the province.

“Elected municipal leaders agreeing to press our provincial government to disclose the data is a powerful message,” he said.

“I believe ICBC is in crisis, and this revelation of economic discrimination may have been a surprise for people like Attorney General David Eby. My expectation is that they will do the right thing and change the current province-wide insurance pool to something that is fair for rural British Columbians.”

For its part, ICBC said it is discounting insurance rates in various regions of the province and for Houston residents it means a 30 per cent discount to be phased in over 10 years beginning this September.

“As part of our efforts to modernize the current system, we have made adjustments to the territory factor in response to the changes in population, traffic density, and infrastructure within each territory,” said ICBC’s Joanna Linsangan.

As an example, Linsangan offered up “Jane,” a Houston resident who has been driving for 40 years and who has had no crashes within the past 10 years.

“Today, her current basic insurance premium is $702. Factoring in all the changes, because of her territory factor and her experience, she would now pay $689 [starting in September],” Linsangan said.

“Steve,” also from Houston who has 25 years of driving experience and who had one crash last year and one the year before, will not fare as well.

While his premium today is also $702, “factoring in all the changes, because of his territory factor and his experience, he would now pay $873,” Linsangan said.

While “Steve” is to pay more, he is “still favourably impacted by territory and his years of experience,” she said.

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