This column, written by Kris Sims (the British Columbia Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation) was originally published in The Vancouver Sun on September 6th, 2019. It is reprinted on SPN with permission.
As British Columbians finish touring our beautiful province over the summer and visiting our cousins in Alberta, we should have a chat about auto insurance rates.
The Alberta rates might sound like fairy tales compared to the scary stories from B.C.
Most B.C. drivers would be irate if they really knew what their insurance rates are compared to drivers on the other side of the Rockies, and many won’t see any cost decreases this month when ICBC’s rate structure change kicks into gear.
According to the most recent data compiled by the General Insurance Statistical Agency, drivers in B.C. are now paying an average price of $1,832 per year to insure their vehicles. That’s $500 more than drivers pay in Alberta, about $300 more than they pay in Ontario and it’s a staggering $1,000 more per year than drivers pay in Nova Scotia.
If you’re driving a motorhome that’s insured in B.C., you are paying about $770 more per year to insure it than you would for the exact same rig in Alberta. Why? It’s largely because ICBC is a government-forced monopoly and we can’t shop around like drivers in Alberta can.
Same goes for other recreational vehicles such as motorcycles. Riders in B.C. pay about $487 more per year than they would in Alberta.
Driving the family around in a sedan? A Langley couple with a learner in the family is forking over about $837 more every year to ICBC for driving their 2012 Honda Accord than their clone family would in Edmonton.
Unfortunately, this isn’t going to get better for many of us this month as ICBC’s new rate regime comes into effect, with some drivers paying slightly less and many others paying more, the rate regime is not expected to show savings on the whole.
With the vast majority of B.C. drivers currently listed as “good” drivers who get a 40 per cent discount, many drivers are worried that ICBC will now move the goal posts on who is a good driver and who is a “bad” driver. Will that parking lot bump five years ago land you on the naughty list after these September changes?
Because ICBC is a government-controlled monopoly for a product that is as essential to us as electricity and phone service, and it hasn’t faced any competition for 45 years, it is now a bloated, inefficient relic that’s costing us a ton of cash.
What if the government ran the only grocery store chain in all of B.C.? Can you imagine the prices, products and services we would get at the Government Grocery Store? It would probably be cheaper to drive to Red Deer to shop for our rye bread and radishes.
ICBC is repeatedly flagged as a “fiscal risk” to the province, with the finance minister sounding the alarm every time she delivers a budget.
B.C. drivers and taxpayers should not have to endure this any longer. The cost of living in B.C. is already sky-high, with housing out of reach for many, gas prices the highest in North America, and government taking thousands of dollars out of our pockets in ever-increasing taxes every year. There’s no reason to hold B.C. drivers hostage to the ICBC monopoly, forcing them to pay the highest insurance rates in Canada.
It’s well past time to rid ourselves of the ICBC dumpster fire and to douse it with competition.