Ontario launches auto insurance system review and public consultation

By Shawn Jeffords


TORONTO _ The Ontario government has launched a review of the province’s auto insurance system, saying it hopes to lower rates for drivers who pay some of the most expensive premiums in the country.

The analysis announced Wednesday will examine practices in other jurisdictions to find ways to make improvements and introduce more competition. The Progressive Conservative government also said it will be consulting with drivers, insurance companies and other stakeholders until Feb. 15.

“This (issue) has always been controversial,” said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli.  “It was left unattended by the Liberals for 15 years and we’re going to take some real action on it.”

A report commissioned by the previous Liberal government found in 2016 that Ontario had the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada despite also having one of the lowest levels of accidents and fatalities.

Since that report was written, British Columbia moved into the lead with the highest rates according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, with Ontario now the second-most expensive province.

Fedeli said the government will create a regulatory framework that allows for modernization in the auto insurance sector. That will include measures such as changing regulations to permit more electronic communication between companies and their customers and allowing companies to issue electronic proof-of-insurance slips.

“By cutting this red tape and modernizing it we know that that will help us reduce costs,” he said.

Fedeli would not say when the Tory plan to change the system will be presented or if the government will commit to a specific rate cut target.

The Liberals had promised an average decrease of 15 per cent in insurance rates by August of 2015 and when that self-imposed deadline passed, then-premier Kathleen Wynne admitted it had been what she called a “stretch goal.”

NDP legislator Gurratan Singh accused the Tory government of stalling by holding consultations instead of taking action to lower rates.

“Doug Ford is preparing to consult his insider friends in the insurance companies, so they can keep making record profits on the backs of Ontario families,” he said in a statement.

Peter Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said the industry needs help from the government to address a range of issues that lead to increased costs for consumers.

“We can’t just focus on a short-term tweak, repair or alteration, it’s got to be a complete overhaul,” he said.

Karageorgos said regulatory changes, addressing fraud in the system, and tackling auto-repair and health-care costs, are all issues that must be addressed.

“Insurance is no different than any other business,” he said.  “The costs are what drives the price of the product. If we can look at reducing the costs consumers will see better prices.”

Karageorgos said many previous governments have promised change in the sector but most end up making short-term fixes that don’t last.

“We’ve had a lot of tinkering with auto insurance,” he said.  “We haven’t really had a government that’s said, ‘okay, let’s take off the band-aid and fix the root cause of the problem.”’

BCUC approves ICBC basic rate on interim basis and sets public review process

January 2, 2019

The British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) has approved ICBC’s application for a 6.3 per cent increase to basic insurance rates on an interim basis for all new and renewal policies with an effective date on or after April 1, 2019.

The approval of ICBC’s basic rate change on an interim basis is consistent with past applications and will lessen the depletion of ICBC’s already low basic insurance capital while the BCUC reviews the full application.

There are a number of ways for the public to participate – requesting intervener statussubmitting a letter of comment or registering as an interested party.

The BCUC has also set the regulatory timetable for the review of ICBC’s basic rate application: https://www.bcuc.com/Documents/NewsRelease/2019/2019-01-02-NewsRelease-ICBC-RRA.pdf

Intervener Registration Monday, January 21
BCUC Information Request (IR) No. 1 to ICBC Tuesday, February 5
Intervener IR No. 1 to ICBC Thursday, February 14
ICBC responses to BCUC and Intervener IR No. 1 Friday, March 8
Further Process To be determined

At the end of the regulatory process, the BCUC will reach a final decision on ICBC’s basic rate application for policy year 2019. The BCUC will determine how any difference between the approved interim rate and permanent rate will be refunded or collected at the time of its final decision.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Katharine Carlsen, BCUC

Phone: 604.660.4715

Email: Katharine.Carlsen@bcuc.com

Should Alberta adopt similar distracted driving legislation as Ontario?

Some Alberta drivers are calling on the province to adopt similar penalties for distracted driving as Ontario.

Stiff penalties passed by the Ontario government came into effect on Jan. 1. Under the new law, an Ontario motorist caught distracted driving for the first time could face a $1,000 fine, three demerit points and a three-day license suspension.

If there are second and third convictions within five years, the fines double and triple, respectively. Each instance would also result in six demerit points. Drivers would lose their licence for seven days upon the second conviction, and 30 days upon the third conviction.

In Alberta, the fine for distracted driving is $287 and three demerits, but some drivers say that is not a steep enough penalty.

“I’ve seen it all … doing their make-up. I don’t care what it is, if you’re going to drive like that, you deserve what you get,” driver Sherry, who didn’t give a last name, said.

“I would support the position that Ontario has taken because I think that distracted driving is incredibly dangerous,” another driver, who didn’t provide a name, said.

According to Alberta Transportation, distracted driving convictions in Alberta have gone down. But the numbers are still significant, with the latest statistics showing 23,546 fines in 2017-2018.

The highest number of offenses (18,659) relate to drivers using handheld devices like phones to communicate while behind the wheel. People have also been caught reading, writing and grooming while driving.

Lee Brooks is a retired class-one commercial driver. He has driven many kilometres on highways and says he has seen multiple collisions because of distracted driving. He wants the penalties to be much stricter across the country.

“I believe fully it should be Canada-wide. As a matter of fact, I don’t even think $1,000 is enough. I think it should be a three-month suspension automatically,” Brooks said.

In November, Manitoba increased its distracted driving fine to nearly $700 and a three-day licence suspension, but so far it has not had an impact on the habits of some drivers.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance, a total of 237 drivers province-wide had their licenses suspended for the minimum three-day period within in the first month of the new penalties coming into place.

Source: Global News

Approval given on interim basis to higher auto insurance rates in B.C.

VICTORIA _ The British Columbia Utilities Commission has given interim approval for a 6.3 per cent increase in basic auto insurance rates.

ICBC says the new rates will apply to new and renewal policies with an effective date on or after April 1.

The public insurer says the commission will establish a public review process for its full application on the higher rates.

Attorney General David Eby has said the government is undertaking a  “historic modernization” of the auto insurer to make rates fairer.

He says the changes will significantly reduce the legal costs associated with minor injury claims and provide enhanced care for people injured in crashes.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has called for a complete overhaul of the 45-year-old public auto insurer after the proposed rate increase.

B.C. drivers could be paying more as public auto insurer asks for a rate increase

British Columbia’s drivers could be paying more for auto insurance as the province’s financially troubled public auto insurer asks for a 6.3 per cent rate increase.

The Insurance Corporation of B.C. announced Friday, December 14, 2018 that it wants to the increase basic insurance rates starting April 1, if approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Attorney General David Eby, the minister in charge of the corporation, says the government is undertaking a “historic modernization” of ICBC to make insurance rates more fair for people.

He says the changes will significantly reduce the legal costs associated to minor injury claims and provide enhanced care for people injured in crashes.

Eby says in a statement that the financial “situation was so dire that had the government not moved to stop the bleeding, the rates would have increased by almost 40 per cent.”

The provincial budget forecast a $1.3-billion deficit at the Crown corporation this year and Eby earlier described the situation as a “dumpster fire” inherited from the former government.

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

The flying cars depicted in science fiction classics such as “Blade Runner” and “The Fifth Element” have long been seen as flights of fancy, but their arrival is closer than you think.

At least a dozen companies are prototyping or testing flying cars or passenger drones, according to a Deloitte report from January.

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035, with aerial delivery and inspection services adding on another $42 billion, a study by Porsche Consulting predicts.

Vertical takeoff and landing craft (VTOLs) carry the promise of delivering people and goods across congested urban and suburban areas in a fraction of the time a driver would need, taking cars off the road in the process. But technological and regulatory hurdles remain. And whether aerial vehicles can substantially change commuter behaviour and emissions _ or overcome questions of safety and public perception _ is still up in the air.

Most VTOLs _ or eVTOLs if they are electric-powered _ resemble an oversize drone, sporting a halo of small rotors around a passenger pod and taking off and touching down like a helicopter. But they will be quieter, cheaper and greener than their heli-cousins, experts say.

“Instead of this deep, guttural, penetrating-through-walls sound, you have a much more acceptable sound, similar to a ceiling fan,” said Nikhil Goel, head of product at Uber Technology Inc.’s aviation team, dubbed Uber Elevate.

Uber hopes to start hauling passengers in five-seat, hybrid VTOLs above Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and a third city outside of the U.S. by 2023.

“The vehicles are real. They’re coming. I think it’s going to be faster than anybody thinks is possible,” Goel said.

He sees the first wave of aerial taxis providing a shuttle service between major airports and downtown vertiports that integrate into the mass transportation system, rather than leapfrogging from block to block _ a hub-to-hub travel option akin to a monorail.

“We are not building this product for the elite,” Goel said.

A few years after the launch of Uber Air, as it’s dubbed, the cost of an aerial trip will be the same as one on the asphalt, he said.

He calculates that an aerial taxi would cut a 90-kilometre commute between the downtowns of San Francisco and San Jose to 15 minutes, down from an hour and 40 minutes.

Uber is not alone in setting its sights on VTOLs. Chinese drone manufacturer Ehang carried out flight tests with a single-passenger drone earlier this year, according to the company’s website. German startup Volocopter has produced an air taxi prototype, taking to the skies above Dubai in 2017. And Kitty Hawk, a California-based company funded by Google founder Larry Page, produced a sleek, one-seat VTOL prototype this year.

Bell (formerly Bell Helicopter), is one of five companies Uber has teamed up with, along with Karem, Pipistrel and aerospace rivals Embraer and Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences.

Scott Drennan, Bell’s vice-president of innovation, sees 2025 as a more realistic commercial launch target than Uber’s goal of 2023.

Battery life is one area that needs to advance, with lithium-ion packs today lasting for between 50 and 100 kilometres on a multi-rotor electric propulsion system, he said.

Regulations are another obstacle. To avoid crowding urban skies, VTOLs could trace existing airplane takeoff and landing routes, but at a lower altitude, buzzing along at between 150 and 330 km/h.

Western aviation regulators bar out-of-sight drone operations for the most part. Discussions are ongoing with the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency, said Drennan, who said he has also met three times with Transport Canada regarding VTOLs.

Mark Cousin, chief executive of Airbus’s A3 unit, stressed the traffic management hurdles on the horizon.

“The vehicle is the easy bit,” he said. “The real challenge lies in integrating thousands of these vehicles into an urban air mobility system within cities.”

A3 has put out an electric-powered VTOL dubbed Vahana. The autonomous prototype launched its first vertical flight in February.

Drones would typically beat other modes of transportation, such as taxis, at distances of 20 kilometres or more in congested areas, according to the Porsche study.

The report notes the technology’s limited potential, stating that it can relieve some pressure from congested urban hot spots _ “but only some.”

“If one tried to solve all traffic problems on the ground by moving into the air, the myriad take-off and landing spots would become the new choke points.”

A city with more than five million inhabitants will likely have no more than 1,000 passenger drones in operation by 2035, the study predicts. That would make a relatively small dent in ground traffic.

Uber cited Los Angeles as an appealing launch city in part because of the abundance of flat roofs there _ a long-standing fire safety regulation required helicopter landing pads atop tall buildings.

“But they’re actually not that well suited, because it’s not just a pickup and drop-off point,” said Robin Lineberger, head of aerospace and defence at Deloitte.

“It has to be a place where people come, get ready to get on the aircraft…the vehicle has to land, recharge, refuel, maybe light maintenance and inspection going on. If you think about it, it really needs to be a small, multi-function airport service area.”

Large parking lots downtown are ripe for conversion into vertiports, complete with conveyor belts, charging stations and hangars, he said.

Insurance would function in ways similar to a helicopter manufacturer or transport service, Lineberger said, with premiums hinging on the probability and severity of accidents.

However, public perception will be an issue for the foreseeable future. Fewer than half of respondents in a Deloitte global survey of 10,000 people this year were convinced that aerial passenger vehicles would be safe, with one-third undecided and one in five disagreeing.

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