After a year of bad news, auto insurance rates dropped overall in Canada by 2.6% in the fourth quarter of 2020 and in Ontario the decrease was 3.2%, according to new data.
It turns out COVID-19 may have been good for something as people stayed home and drove less.
According to Hellosafe.ca, car insurance rates in Canada skyrocketed by 19.1% on average between 2017 and 2019.
In Ontario, the insurance rate on average was $1,463 in March of 2017 and $1,634 in March of 2019 — an increase of 11.69%.
Ontario seems to have done the best in the country in 2020 with rates dropping the fastest in the country and dropping 3.2% in the fourth quarter.
“It’s great news for the Ontarian drivers, given that their average car insurance rate is the second highest in Canada after B.C.,” the report says.
The rates between 2017 and 2019 show Quebec is the province with the cheapest auto insurance rates in Canada — with an average driver paying $798 in 2019, that province had a rate increase of 17%.
Harvest is either underway or just on the horizon for many farmers in the province – and that means drivers may be seeing more farm equipment on Saskatchewan highways in the coming weeks.
Although collisions with farm equipment are rare, now is the time of year that they are most likely to happen.
Yes, you may be hitting the road to make the most of these last few weeks of warm and sunny weather. While many of us are enjoying summer, our agricultural producers are working hard to get their crops off the field. The work farmers do puts food on our tables and contributes to the provincial economy. And they need everyone’s help to keep safe.
Some things to keep in mind when driving around farm equipment:
Be patient – farm equipment is very slow-moving. If you find yourself behind a big piece of machinery – be patient, and pass when it is safe to do so.
Again, be patient – Farmers are usually only transporting their machinery from one field to another, so they won’t be on the road for long. Even if you don’t get an opportunity to pass safely, you won’t be behind them for a long distance
Give yourself some space – farm equipment can be wider or longer than sometimes expected. Make sure to give yourself plenty of room to pass and pull back into the lane safely.
And give the farmer some space too – The operator of the farm equipment has plenty of blind spots, and may not be able to see you if you’re following too closely behind or cut in front of them. When everyone can see each other on the road, we’re all safer.
Stay alert – Depending on the farm equipment, the farmer may not be able to signal their intent to turn or slow down. Anticipate sudden movements, and keep your focus on the road.
Bonus tip: Farmers will also take steps to ensure their safety and yours. Equipment that travels slower than 40 km/h, must be equipped with a rear/center slow-moving-vehicle sign, and machinery that extends more than 1.2 meters should be equipped with reflective devices to alert drivers.
www.sgi.sk.ca / www.sgicanada.ca
In a move prompted by the COVID-19 crisis, the Ontario government modified the “Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices” regulation under the Insurance Act of Ontario in order to reduce barriers to rebating or reduction of automobile insurance premiums by automobile insurers or brokers of automobile insurance policies.
The prohibition against rebating has typically been a consumer protection measure to prevent insurers or brokers from offering an inducement to insureds to purchase policies, with an understanding that the insureds would get some additional benefit, beyond the insurance policy itself. Apart from protecting consumers from being misled, this prohibition also provides consumer protection against discrimination. Similar prohibitions exist in other provinces and territories of Canada.
The regulatory prohibition in section 2 of O. Reg. 77/00, the Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices regulation is against, among other things:
- making, or attempting to make, directly or indirectly, an agreement with an insured or applicant for insurance, as to the premium to be paid for an insurance policy that is different than the premium stated in the policy;
- paying, allowing, or giving, directly or indirectly, or offering or agreeing to give, a rebate of all or part of the premium stated in the policy to an insured or applicant for insurance; and
- paying, allowing, or giving, directly or indirectly, or offering or agreeing to give, consideration or other value intended to be in the nature of a rebate of premium to an insured or applicant for insurance.
However, as a result of the spread of COVID-19 and the declaration of an emergency in the province of Ontario under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, automobiles are being used much less frequently, which means that, taken together, the risk assumed by automobile insurers is less than existed at the time of application or underwriting of the applicable policies. Accordingly, some automobile insurers had expressed a willingness to refund to insureds portions of annual premiums, or to reduce monthly charges of insurance premiums, based on reduced vehicle usage during the declared emergency. The regulatory prohibition on rebating had caused some uncertainty for insurers or brokers looking to provide this relief.
As a result of the change, a rebate or reduction of automobile insurance premium is not considered to be an unfair or deceptive act or practice if:
- an emergency is declared under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act;
- the rebate is issued in response to that declared emergency; and
- the automobile insurer files an undertaking with the Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA). FSRA has provided a sample form of undertaking as a starting point for insurers, which effectively commits the insurer to offering premium rebates in a manner consistent with applicable law and FSRA’s regulatory guidance.
Rebates of all or part of an automobile insurance premium are not considered an unfair or deceptive act or practice from the date of declaration of an emergency (in the case of COVID-19, March 17, 2020) to the date that is one year after the date that the declared emergency is terminated.
Ontario is the first Canadian jurisdiction to loosen restrictions on rebating during a declared emergency. We expect some other jurisdictions to similarly permit premium rebate or reduction programs. As we noted previously, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions – the leading financial and solvency regulator of insurers in Canada – has made it easier for insurers to grant deferrals for payment of insurance premiums.
In addition to this regulatory change, Ontario’s FSRA, as the market conduct and consumer protection regulator in Ontario, issued a regulatory guidance with the following highlights:
- In order for premium rebating as described above (whether a refund, rebate, or reduction of insurance premium) not to constitute an unfair or deceptive act or practice, it must be:
- consumer-focused (providing financial relief where premium charged was based on risk factors that are no longer “just and reasonable” and have materially reduced during a specified period of time related to the applicable emergency);
- transparent and disclosed through clear and public communication by the insurer;
- equitable, by being consistent and not discriminatory among insureds, for example the benefit to consumers varies only based on premium paid;
- fair, by not being a prohibited anti-competitive practice such as tied selling, or an inducement to purchase or renew an insurance policy; and
- time-limited, by being undertaken during or immediately following an emergency declared under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, with a goal of providing financial relief to consumers in respect of that emergency.
Where the above criteria are satisfied, FSRA has expressed support for premium repayment programs, given the mismatch between premium levels and associated risk, and the nature of these programs as directed at relieving financial hardship among consumers, rather than permitting insurers to obtain an unfair competitive advantage or unreasonably preferring certain consumers over others.
FSRA has recommended that insurers engage with FSRA early in the design of a premium rebate program to confirm that the intended program is appropriate. In particular, FSRA has requested from insurers the following premium rebate program information prior to implementation:
- how rebates will be calculated;
- how rebates will be provided to customers;
- at a high level, how customers will be impacted by the rebate program;
- how the rebates will comply with FSRA’s principles; and
- the intended form of undertaking to FSRA’s Chief Executive Officer that commits an insurer to developing a rebating program and implementing this program in accordance with the above-noted principles.
FSRA will sign and return to insurers undertakings as evidence for the insurer that the undertaking has been approved, with a new undertaking filed for each premium rebate program established by an insurer. FSRA has noted that insurers who fail to administer their rebating programs in accordance with FSRA guidance and their undertakings will lose the benefit of the waiver of the prohibition against rebating.
- FSRA expects insurers to maintain records of rebates provided to their customers for use in future supervisory activity and reporting.
- Automobile insurance is a heavily-regulated industry, with mandatory rate filings. FSRA provided an approach to principles, processes and practices that it will follow when considering applications from insurers to reduce insurance rates in order to provide rate reductions or other relief to consumers.
Principles of the emergency rate review include:
- rate increases will not be considered at this time; only rate reductions will be considered, including new or increased discounts, lower (or eliminated) surcharges, lower (or eliminated) fees, and lower (or eliminated) charges on instalment payments;
- the proposed changes may not result in a premium rate increase to a customer on renewal, assuming a static book; and
- rate reductions may be implemented on a “use and file” basis, by which they may take effect prior to being reviewed by FSRA, let alone approved, provided that FSRA will work with applicable insurers to resolve issues that FSRA identifies and, if the issues are not resolvable, then FSRA may require the insurer to cease use of the revised rate filings.
- FSRA provided automobile insurers with a summary of some actions that insurers may take without FSRA review or approval, including:
- re-rating policies based on changes in risk profile;
- if appropriate and relevant, modifying or temporarily suspending the effective dates of filings to defer the implementation of rate increases;
- being flexible in exercising contractual and statutory rights, such as those relating to:
- payment plans and premium payment deferral;
- underwriting rules and allowing exceptions for customers experiencing a period of financial difficulty, such as deferring decisions to non-renew customers who might otherwise be lawfully non-renewed; and
- cancelling policies or suspending coverage;
- allocating more resources to insurer call centres and underwriting;
- extending certain coverages where appropriate (e.g. to non-owned vehicles, or to loss of use); and
- waiving certain standard policy exclusions (e.g. use of personal vehicles to deliver food and other products).
It is likely that FSRA will ask insurers to report on actions taken during or as a result of the COVID crisis, along with the impact on customers of these actions.
The McCarthy Tetrault LLP Insurance Law team is available to assist insurers and brokers who have questions about proposed rebating programs, including draft undertakings, or other regulatory or transactional matters.
OTTAWA _ Canadian fish harvesters welcomed the announcement Thursday of $469 million in federal support for the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they’re watching closely for clarity as fishing seasons open across the country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the programs in Ottawa, acknowledging the financial pinch and safety concerns harvesters are facing.
“You can’t harvest lobster from inside your house, so that leaves you trying to figure out how to either space people out on a fishing boat or cancel your operations. It’s not an easy call to make,” Trudeau said.
He also pointed to decreasing prices and reduced demand for products that have put pressure on harvesters and their families.
“This adds up to a really tough time, so I want you to know that we’re listening,” the prime minister said.
The new aid comes in the form of an industry-specific benefit and a grant.
The Fish Harvester Benefit, structured similarly to the previously announced federal wage subsidy, offers income support covering 75 per cent of losses for harvesters who see their income drop by at least 25 per cent this year.
The program will provide a maximum individual amount of $847 per week for up to 12 weeks _ the same as the existing wage subsidy program.
The Fish Harvester Grant is a sector-specific grant similar to the Canada Emergency Business Account, offering up to $10,000 of non-repayable support to self-employed harvesters.
Trudeau also addressed concerns among harvesters who may not generate enough income to file a valid employment insurance claim for next year.
He said proposed measures would allow self-employed harvesters to access benefits based on insurable earnings from previous years.
A statement from federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan said the fishing sectors, which drive the economies in many coastal and rural communities, face unique challenges.
“With this announcement, we are ensuring that Canada’s hard-working fish harvesters get the support they need now and into the future,” Jordan said.
The relief measures come amid mounting concerns about support from Ottawa as fish harvesters prepared to head out on the water this spring.
Crab harvester Jason Sullivan said the announcement addressed his biggest concern about employment insurance for his crew, though he was waiting on the fine print on issues like whether the funding will be dispersed to individuals or enterprises.
“Right now, it seems to be pretty good,” Sullivan said from Bay Bulls, N.L. “It’s something the industry needed. It needed help.”
Volatility with prices and demand were already challenging the industry, Sullivan said, and the pandemic has highlighted the fragility in the sector.
“Hopefully people realize that changes need to be made and the fishery needs to be modernized so you can weather a storm on your own,” he said.
Tony Doyle of Bay de Verde, N.L., who fishes lobster, crab and other fish in Conception Bay, said the measures seem likely help a lot of people during a difficult year, though he’s hoping to see the finer details about applying to the programs as soon as possible.
He said distancing on boats will be a challenge, and some older fishermen in the community may choose to stay home this year. But fears about COVID-19 infecting coastal communities have subsided as cases flattened in the province over the last month.
“We’ll do our best,” he said. “It’s a later start than usual, but we’re hopeful that we can land the product we need to land and if I need help, I’ll be able to avail of the help the federal government is providing.”
Conservative fisheries critic Mel Arnold said harvesters were let down by the Liberal government’s delayed announcement and lack of clarity about when people can apply and who qualifies.
He also raised concerns about labour shortages and market uncertainty.
“As fish harvesters in Atlantic Canada head out (Friday), what is the Trudeau government doing to secure new and traditional export markets and to make fish and seafood more available to Canadian consumers,” Arnold said in a statement.
NDP critic Gord Johns agreed that the announcement was overdue, adding that the loan program should be raised to meet fishers’ needs.
He also urged the government to help bring Canadian seafood to local markets by clarifying how seafood will be included in the Canada Purchase Program, especially given tightened restrictions on seafood entering the United States.
“A government focus on selling domestic seafood to Canadians would not only support, but also validate, the hard work of Canadian fishers and harvesters,” Johns said in a statement.
Underwriter Aviva says language from province not enough to trigger payout
The excerpted article was written by · CBC News
B.C. dentists say they’ve been unable to collect pandemic insurance because the province’s current directives do not clearly require that dental offices close so they can provide emergency care.
Since March 23, the province has recommended that all dental offices suspend non-emergency care.
TripleGuard, which provides insurance to 1,800 B.C. dentists, wrote in a letter to clients that Aviva, the insurance underwriter, has said pandemic insurance can only be activated “when there is a provincial order in place by the government to shut down dental offices.”
Ed Dermit, the president of TripleGuard, wrote in the letter that Aviva is accepting pandemic insurance claims from dentists in all other provinces.
“Their position is that the B.C. government’s current instructions for British Columbia dentists are not sufficient to trigger pandemic coverage under the plan,” he wrote.
“The absence of required wording puts B.C. dentists in a completely unfair and aggrieved position.”
$36M in insurance denied
A letter from British Columbia Dental Association (BCDA) president James Singer and executive director Jocelyn Johnston said the association became aware of Aviva’s position on April 7. They subsequently contacted the provincial health officer, health minister and premier.
The letter says the province replied on April 13 that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s direction has been consistent with directives from other Canadian provinces. It said the province supports the BCDA in its position that dentists should be able to collect pandemic insurance.
According to the letter, dentists are being denied at least $36 million in compensation.
“We are making every effort to achieve a positive resolution as soon as possible,” the letter reads in part.
“Should our advocacy efforts fail, BCDA will consider other options, including initiating legal action on behalf of, and with, our members.”
Aviva ‘taking advantage’
The BCDA wrote in a statement on its website that Aviva “has taken advantage of the lack of an ‘Order’ to deny B.C. dentists their pandemic coverage.”
“If the pandemic insurance coverage is not provided, there may be a dramatic contraction of available dental care for patients who have had to defer treatment,” the statement reads in part.
“These practices are caught in a dilemma: They cannot provide regular dental care due to the pandemic; and now many cannot access their insurance coverage which they have paid for to help tide them over until they can get back to work.”
According to another statement posted on the BCDA website, dentists and other dental staff must also have appropriate personal protective equipment to perform emergency procedures — supplies that have been difficult to come by as the demand for equipment skyrockets across Canada and internationally.
By Camille Bains
THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER _ A judge ended the last day of a nearly four-year trial by hinting that no matter which side wins in the fight over the expansion of private health care in British Columbia, the case will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.
“We’ve had some good times and we’ve had some other times,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Steeves told lawyers for Canada, British Columbia and those representing a group of plaintiffs led by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Day, who heads Cambie Surgeries Corp.
Steeves said Friday that after he issues his ruling, which could be months away, he’ll “join the rest of the world” in looking forward to the progress of the case.
Day opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 and launched court action against the B.C. government in 2009 over sections of the Medicare Protection Act. It prohibits doctors from billing the government for work they do in the public system while also earning money from private clinics as well as billing patients or their insurance companies.
The case landed in B.C. Supreme Court in September 2016, with Day maintaining patients have a constitutional right to private surgery or diagnostic tests if they have to wait too long in the public system.
One of his lawyers, Peter Gall, concluded the last of about 200 days of the trial by saying the threshold for when patients should get treatment in private clinics is when they’ve waited beyond wait-time benchmarks established by the province.
“We know there’s a risk when you cross that maximum acceptable wait-time limit,” Gall said, adding the government would be preventing people from protecting their health by not allowing them to seek private treatment.
Health ministers across Canada agreed to reduce wait times in 2004 in five key areas cancer treatment, cardiac care, diagnostic imaging, joint replacement and sight restoration such as cataract surgery. Benchmarks were set the following year for acceptable wait times.
Figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show that in 2018, the benchmark of 182 days for knee replacements, for example, was met 59 per cent of the time in B.C., up from 47 per cent two years earlier.
Robert Grant, another lawyer for Day, said government lawyers failed to provide adequate evidence suggesting wait times would increase for the public system if private clinics were allowed to expand and they also didn’t provide conclusive evidence that doctors and nurses would leave for jobs in the private sector.
He said government lawyers’ assertions that Canada’s health-care system would end up like that of the United States aren’t based on reliable data but that any changes brought on by a successful court challenge may be more in line with the United Kingdom, where private surgeries are done in the public system.
However, Dr. Richard Klasa, a board member of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, one of the interveners in the case, said outside court that Canada’s proximity to the U.S. would suggest an American-style system complete with multiple insurance companies is more likely to become a reality in this country if the current legal provisions are struck down.
“For-profit health insurers are salivating to be able to get into the Canadian market,” said Klasa, who’s a retired oncologist. “Basically, they see Canada as a place almost the size and almost the wealth of California, which from their standpoint doesn’t have any health care.”
Klasa, who was also a scientist at the BC Cancer Research Centre, said cancer patients fare much better in Canada compared with either the United States or most of Europe.
“That’s because cancer care is quite comprehensive,” he said, noting drugs are covered for cancer patients under Canada’s universal health-care system.
Day walked out of court on Friday saying he fully expects the case to land at the Supreme Court of Canada because private health care is a right that should be extended beyond B.C.
“Canada is the only country on Earth where a citizen is not allowed to purchase private insurance,” he said. “If you were told it was going to be six weeks before you could get a biopsy you should have the right to have private insurance kick in so you could get that done right away. If there was a cancer growing in any of us, we would want to reserve that right.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2020.