B.C.’s insurance corporation cuts ad budget in favour of traffic enforcement

VICTORIA _ The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia is slashing its advertising budget in half and redirecting the funds toward police traffic enforcement.

Attorney General David Eby says high risk drivers are ignoring the corporation’s road safety messages.

He says channelling advertising funds directly to enforcement will offer the chance to deliver the message directly to risky drivers.

Starting in the next fiscal year, the insurance corporation will add $2.4 million to enhanced traffic enforcement.

The Ministry of the Attorney General says that will boost the public insurer’s investment in direct safety traffic programs to $24.8 million.

Corporation president Nicolas Jimenez says ICBC’s cost pressures can be traced directly to the 350,000 crashes, about 960 a day, that were recorded across British Columbia last year.

“With crashes at an all-time high in our province, we’re committed to doing what we can to reduce claims costs and relieve the pressure on insurance rates,” Jimenez says in a news release.

The corporation says the $2.4 million remaining in its advertising budget will be spent educating drivers about upcoming changes to the provincial auto insurance system.

#DriveSmartBC – Building Trust, Driving Confidence

ICBC’s current corporate slogan is “Building Trust, Driving Confidence.” Pair that with this week’s announcement of a $582 million loss for the first six months of the corporation’s fiscal year and one begins to wonder about the confidence part. That loss is being blamed on the rising number and cost of claims.

Laying the blame there is probably the easiest thing to do and the least likely to require a lot of explanation.

ICBC rates are set by the BC Utilities Commission, which is ultimately controlled by the provincial government. That’s the same government that took dividends out of ICBC coffers that could have been invested by the corporation and the profits used to pay insurance claims.

Our provincial government also controls many other facets of this issue. Driver licensing, policing, traffic laws, highway design and maintenance to name a few.

So, who’s in the driver’s seat and where are they taking us? Are we happy with the direction of travel?

There are three ways to reduce this deficit, take in more money, reduce costs and quit running into each other or other things.

No one wants to pay more for their vehicle insurance. This is a relatively immediate consequence and one that we feel acutely. It’s easy to complain about as it’s visible to us all regularly.

Let’s make the high risk driver pay a high risk premium. Ditto for those who actually cause a crash. They should pay more too. Good drivers should pay the smallest premium.

Recently, reducing costs has come in the form of paying less for claims. This is a little more palatable because we’re all better than average drivers and perhaps this isn’t seen as something that will directly affect us. Someone else will pay the price regardless of whether they are the culprit or the victim.

Finally we come to a very complicated problem, how to reduce or eliminate collisions. Vision Zero. The most certain way to reduce insurance rates.

People make mistakes. Despite our best intentions bad things can happen and this is why we buy insurance.

The reduction of these mistakes and the minimization of the consequences of those that do happen will be a long process. Safe highways, safe vehicles, safe speeds and safe users all combine to produce the safe systems of Vision Zero.

I can make a difference immediately if I try. I realize that driving is a team effort, not an individual one. I won’t be selfish and I’ll share the road. I will even try to put others first if there is a need to.

Will you?

Holiday CounterAttack roadchecks start this weekend

Holiday CounterAttack roadchecks start this weekend

The annual holiday CounterAttack campaign is kicking off this weekend with roadchecks set up across the province.

The B.C. government, police and ICBC are urging drivers to plan ahead and make smart decisions to get home safely this holiday season.

Impaired driving remains a leading cause of fatal car crashes, with an average of 68 lives lost every year in B.C. Police across the province will be setting up roadchecks to keep impaired drivers off our roads throughout December.

For more than 40 years, ICBC has supported impaired driving education campaigns and funded CounterAttack enhanced police enforcement. ICBC also provides free special event permit kits for businesses, sports facilities and community groups to promote the get home safe message.

ICBC is a sponsor of Operation Red Nose, a volunteer service in 19 B.C. communities that provides safe rides to drivers who feel unfit to drive, no matter the reason. This service is available November 30 until December 31 on Friday and Saturday nights, including New Year’s Eve.

Next fiscal year, ICBC will be directing additional funding to police traffic enforcement throughout the province without increasing the operating budget.  The funding will come from ICBC’s annual advertising budget. This shift in focus will help get more police officers on the road to crack down on risky driving behaviors and help prevent crashes.

Get more stats and facts from ICBC’s infographic and learn more about the CounterAttack campaign on icbc.com.

Quotes:

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

“Generations of B.C. drivers and passengers have grown up with CounterAttack’s deterrent messages and stepped-up seasonal enforcement. With cannabis now legal in Canada, we’re determined to preserve CounterAttack’s life-saving benefits in detecting alcohol- and drug-affected drivers and removing them from B.C.’s roads.”

Chief Constable Neil Dubord, Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee

“Police officers across the province will be working hard to keep impaired drivers off our roads this December. Driving while impaired by alcohol or any drug, legal or otherwise, has been against the law for many years, and that hasn’t changed. Do your part this holiday season and look out for family and friends – take a stand and don’t let them get behind the wheel impaired.”

Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s vice-president responsible for road safety

“We want everyone to enjoy the holidays with family and friends so make sure you plan ahead for a safe ride home. Whether you’re attending a holiday get-together or meeting friends to watch a game, if your festivities involve alcohol, please leave your car at home or find an alternate way to get home safe – use a designated driver, call a taxi, take transit or use Operation Red Nose.”

Statistics:*

  • On average, 17 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving in the Lower Mainland every year.

  • On average, 10 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving on Vancouver Island every year.

  • On average, 23 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving in the Southern Interior every year.

  • On average, 19 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving in North Central B.C. every year.

Editor’s notes:

Lower Mainland media are invited to attend an evening CounterAttack roadcheck on Saturday, December 1 in Vancouver. Please contact Joanne Bergman, 604-314-3138, for location.

Several police detachments throughout B.C. will also invite media to attend CounterAttack roadchecks in their communities on December 1.

B-roll footage of a CounterAttack roadcheck is available for download.

Notes about the data:

*Fatal victim counts from police data based on five-year average from 2013 to 2017. Impaired is defined to include alcohol, illicit drugs and medicines.

That’s a bad look! 793 distracted driving offences sets another Traffic Safety Spotlight record

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ICBC posts net loss of $582 million for first six months of fiscal year

ICBC has posted a net loss of $582 million for the first six months of our current fiscal year (April 1 to September 30, 2018), reflective of the continued pressure ICBC is under from the rising number and cost of claims.

The number of claims being filed with ICBC and the cost of both injury and vehicle damage claims have been escalating in recent years, as has been widely reported. ICBC’s net claims incurred for the first six months of its fiscal year alone topped $3 billion, an increase of $634 million, or 26 per cent, over the same period last year ($2.4 billion).

During the first six months of this current fiscal year, in particular, ICBC’s claims settlement costs have continued to grow, with an increasing number of large loss claims which run into hundreds of thousands of dollars each, and continuing aggressive pressure from plaintiff counsel which is leading to slower claims closure rates and higher settlement demands.

This significant financial loss comes after ICBC reported a net loss of $1.3 billion for its 2017/18 fiscal year, and means ICBC is now projecting to report a year-end financial net loss of $890 million for 2018/19.

There are no signs that the ongoing and increasing claims cost pressures ICBC is experiencing will abate without the major reform to the auto insurance product in British Columbia which government and ICBC are implementing. While our current financial pressures are clearly serious, they have been caused by an auto insurance system which has long been in need of substantial modernization – something that is now, at last, happening.

These changes will shift the focus away from maximizing payouts to a care-based system – which makes taking care of people injured in a crash the top priority, with more money for the treatments and support they need to get better and less spent on legal costs.

Substantial improvements to ICBC’s accident benefits will improve the care available for anyone who is injured in a crash. ICBC will be able to fund these increased benefits though reduced legal costs, a limit on payouts for pain and suffering for minor injuries and a new dispute resolution model – all resulting in projected net savings of $1 billion annually.

Government and ICBC are also modernizing ICBC’s 30 year-old insurance system to ensure all drivers pay premiums which more accurately reflect the risk they represent on the road. In addition, a number of road safety initiatives are underway, aimed at lowering crashes and mitigating the current financial pressures on ICBC.

The growing claims costs pressures ICBC is facing will also need to be addressed with the next basic rate application which is due with the British Columbia Utilities Commission by December 15.

GM in for ‘one hell of a fight’ over planned Oshawa plant closure: Union

The union representing workers at the General Motors assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., is promising “one hell of a fight” after the automaker announced it would close the location along with four other facilities in the U.S. as part of a global reorganization.

Hours after GM’s announcement, Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, stood before a union hall overflowing with anxious GM workers and said the union will fight against the planned move “tooth and nail.”

“They are not closing our damn plant without one hell of a fight,” Dias told the audience, some still drenched from holding an impromptu picket line in the driving rain.

He said the plant has won “every award” and was the best by “every matrix.”

“We are sick and tired of being pushed around. And we’re not going to be pushed around… we deserve respect,” he said.

GM announced the closures Monday, November 26, 2018 as part of a sweeping strategy to transform its product line and manufacturing process that will see the company focus on electric and autonomous vehicle programs, a plan that it said will save the company US$6 billion by the year 2020.

“This industry is changing very rapidly, when you look at all of the transformative technologies, be it propulsion, autonomous driving… These are things we’re doing to strengthen the core business,” GM chief executive and chairwoman Mary Barra told reporters Monday. “We think it’s appropriate to do it at a time, and get in front of it, while the company is strong and while the economy is strong.”

GM also said it will reduce salaried and salaried contract staff by 15 per cent, which includes 25 per cent fewer executives. The US$6 billion in savings includes cost reductions of US$4.5 billion and lower capital expenditure annually of almost US$1.5 billion.

GM’s shares in New York jumped as high as 7.8 per cent to US$38.75, their highest level since July. The automaker’s shares closed at US$37.65, up 4.79 per cent.

The impending shutdown is “scary,” said Matt Smith, who has worked at the Oshawa plant for 12 years. He said his wife also works at the GM facility and the pair have an 11-month-old at home.

“I don’t know how I’m going to feed my family,” he said outside of the plant’s south gate, where workers instituted a blockade for trucks from the entrance.

“It’s hard, it’s horrible! We have always been the best plant in North America. It’s a kick in the nuts.”

Unifor, the union representing more than 2,500 workers at the plant, said it has been told that there is no product allocated to the Oshawa plant past December 2019.

Production began at the Oshawa plant on Nov. 7, 1953, and in the 1980s the plant employed roughly 23,000 people.

GM is also closing the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Detroit and the Lordstown Assembly in Warren, Ohio in 2019. GM propulsion plants in White Marsh, Md., and Warren, Mich., are also due to close as well.

The automaker did not say the plants would close, but used the term “unallocated,” which means no future products would be allocated to these facilities next year.

On top of the previously announced closure of the assembly plant in Gunsan, Korea, GM will also cease the operations of two additional plants outside North America by the end of next year.

The closures come as North American automakers feel pressure from U.S. tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Last month, GM rival Ford Motor. Co. reported a US$991 million profit during its third quarter, but said tariffs cost the company about US$1 billion. Of that amount, US$600 million was due largely to U.S. tariffs on imported steel and US$200 million from retaliatory tariffs imposed by China on American vehicles, Ford said.

The restructuring announcement also comes after Canada and the U.S. reached the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, after months of strained negotiations.

Under the new trade deal, 40 per cent of the content of automobiles must be produced by workers earning at least US$16 per hour to qualify for duty-free movement across the continent. The agreement also stipulates that 75 per cent of the automobile’s contents must be made in North America in order to be tariff-free.

Last month, as GM reported a US$2.5-billion third-quarter profit, the automaker also said it was aiming to cut costs by offering buyouts to roughly 18,000 white-collar workers with 12 or more years of service. That represented more than one third of the company’s 50,000 salaried workers across North America. Workers had until Nov. 19 to decide, and they would have to exit by the end of the year.

And in July, GM executives said pressure from commodity prices and foreign exchange rates had been more significant than expected and the automaker expected a US$1-billion additional headwind, with the biggest exposure being steel.

Meanwhile, GM’s Barra said Monday the company will be investing in autonomous and electric vehicle technology. Vehicles have become more “software-oriented” and GM will be looking to hire more employees with the “right skill set” going forward, she said.

“You will see us have new employees joining the company as others leave the company,” Barra said.

The changes announced Monday will not impact GM’s new trucks and SUVs, which are Barra said are “doing very well.”

The Oshawa plant, however, has been producing an older model, she said.

“Oshawa is building the previous generation trucks that are very helpful in the crossover period… As we’re transitioning to the new truck architecture,” she said.

The timing of the decision was surprising, but not the decision itself, said Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. He pointed to the steep production decline over the past 15 years from nearly a million units to roughly 148,000 units in 2017.

“The writing has been on the wall for quite some time so it was a matter of when not whether they would make this move,” he said in an email.

The decision is “devastating” for workers at the plant and auto suppliers, but Oshawa has adapted over the years and will survive this as well, DesRosiers added.

In addition to the Oshawa assembly plant, GM has an engine and transmission plant in St. Catharines, Ont. and the CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said it was a “difficult day” for the Oshawa plant workers, Ontario auto part suppliers and their families.

The provincial government has begun exploring measures to help impacted workers, businesses and communities cope with the “aftermath of this decision,” including a training program to help local workers to regain employment as quickly as possible, Ford added.

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