By Michelle McQuigge
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO _ A wave of alleged criminal activity rocking Ontario’s tow truck industry clearly shows the need for stronger oversight, Premier Doug Ford said Monday as he announced a newly appointed task force would be reviewing ways to overhaul the sector.
The group, consisting of officials from across numerous government ministries as well as the Ontario Provincial Police, will draft a new regulatory framework for the sector that has wound up in the crosshairs of at least two high-profile police probes in recent months.
Ford cited the investigations by both the Toronto and York Regional Police services when announcing the task force.
“To all the bad actors out there, my message is very clear the party’s over,” Ford said at a news conference. “We’re coming for you, and we’ll catch you, and we will lock you up.”
York police said last month that a number of industry players were facing charges following an investigation dubbed Project Platinum that spanned several jurisdictions but concentrated on the Greater Toronto Area.
Supt. Mike Slack of the force’s organized crime and intelligence services said at the time that a lucrative turf war had erupted along stretches of major provincial highways, resulting in charges ranging from murder to arson. None of those charges have yet been proven in court.
Slack alleged multiple tow truck companies, all with ties to organized crime, had defrauded insurance companies with vehicles involved in real and staged collisions. He alleged the companies would grossly inflate towing bills, move cars from lot to lot to increase storage fees and inflate repair bills.
Body shops and car rental companies were in on the schemes, Slack said, and would receive “profitable cuts for themselves.”
Insurance companies grew wise to the alleged frauds, Slack said, prompting them to hire a Vaughan, Ont., law firm to help them push back against the scams. That firm, police alleged, itself became a target of threats and gun violence and was ultimately forced to close up shop.
Project Platinum ultimately resulted in dozens of charges against at least 20 people. Weeks later, Toronto police charged 11 others in an investigation of its own that ensnared a veteran officer.
The officer was accused of stealing encrypted police radios and helping to put them in the hands of tow truck operators. Those drivers would then rely on dispatch information to arrive first at accident scenes and secure lucrative towing jobs, the force alleged.
In reviewing the mandate of the new task force, Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said that practice would be among the many issues flagged for review.
“This is an element that contributes to the violence,” she said. “It’s certainly something that we will be looking at as part of the task force’s work.”
The task force will also be asked to provide recommendations for a new regulatory framework, which could potentially replace the current system that leaves the towing industry subject to a patchwork of regulations set by municipalities rather than the province.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones agreed Monday that it was time for tighter regulations.
“(Towing companies) are operating in an industry that lacks oversight and structure, and where too many criminals are making their own rules,” she said. “A spike in violence within the industry … is a threat to Ontarians and public safety, and it must end.”
The government said the task force would also review issues such as stronger consumer protections, training and background checks for industry members.
Mulroney said the group has been asked to present its recommendations by the end of July, which will then be shared with sector members and municipalities for input before any government action on the issue gets underway.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2020.
The Plaintiff and her employer were defendants in an action that made a number of allegations, including negligence and fraud (the Original Action). The Original Action triggered partial coverage for both the Plaintiff and her employer under the employer’s Professional Liability policy (the Policy). The Policy set out that the insurer, in the insured’s name and behalf, had the right and duty to investigate, defend and conduct settlement negotiations, but it agreed that it would not settle any claim without the consent of the insured.
The insurer appointed counsel to defend the Plaintiff and her employer in the Original Action. The Plaintiff alleged the lawyer retained by the insurer was negligent, thus giving rise to the litigation in question.
Early in the Original Action, the Plaintiff raised the possibility of seeking a summary dismissal with the lawyer. The lawyer held the opinion that there was no real chance of succeeding in a summary dismissal application at that stage of the litigation. The Plaintiff was aware of this opinion and did not push the matter further at that time.
Several years later, the Plaintiff instructed the lawyer to have the claims made against her dismissed. The lawyer advised the Plaintiff that he could not follow her instructions as the insurer had the sole right to instruct counsel and, even with the passage of time, he held his opinion that the summary dismissal application would likely not succeed.
Later, the claimant in the Original Action made an offer of discontinuance on a without costs basis (the Offer). The insurer and employer consented to the Offer, but the Plaintiff did not. The lawyer ultimately withdrew as counsel for the Plaintiff due to this disagreement.
The Court in Kostic found that the lawyer misunderstood the nature of his role as defence counsel. Although he was retained through the insurer, the lawyer’s clients in the Original Action were the insureds, the Plaintiff’s employer and the Plaintiff herself. The lawyer was obliged to take instructions from the Plaintiff, unless those instructions put him in a position of conflict between the Plaintiff, her employer and/or the insurer. The Court held that the lawyer’s misunderstanding of the nature of his role as counsel for the Plaintiff resulted in her receiving poor communication. The reporting letters sent to the insurer as the Action proceeded should have been copied to the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff should have been made more aware of the defence strategy.
The Court ultimately dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim against the lawyer and found there was no evidence of a conflict of interest until divergent instructions were given by the Plaintiff respecting the Offer. At that time, the lawyer properly withdrew as counsel for the Plaintiff. The Court held that the prior disagreement on bringing a summary dismissal application was a mere disagreement with respect to litigation strategy, which did not amount to a conflict of interest. If it did, the insurer’s right to control the defence stipulated in the Policy would be effectively meaningless.
Kostic serves as a reminder of the obligations an insurance defence lawyer has to insureds. Defence counsel should be aware of their obligations to both the insurer and insured in these situations. In this sense, Kostic is not “ground-breaking”. Where Kostic is of greater assistance is in its commentary respecting communication obligations. While insurers may have control of the defence of an action, it is clear that there must be communication with insureds to an extent that would permit the insured to understand strategic decisions. Whether this understanding is to be held to a subjective or objective standard is unclear from the ruling. We would assume it would have to be objective, albeit counsel would be well served to cater to her audience. At a minimum, it would seem prudent for defence counsel to report to the insured as frequently as her reports to the insurer. Finally, Kostic provides helpful clarification on when a conflict of interest might arise in these circumstances. It seems very reasonable to find, as the Court did, that counsel would need to remove herself where there is a material divergence of views on key strategic decisions such that there is a reasonable apprehension of a conflict between the interests of the insurer and the insured. Imposing such an obligation at an earlier stage would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for counsel to represent both the insured and insurer.
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TORONTO, June 29, 2020 /CNW/ – COVID-19’s impact on the economy is causing many Canadians to worry about the future: 79 per cent of respondents in CIBC’s Financial Priorities Poll say they are concerned about continued recessionary times next year, compared to 55 per cent who said they feared an economic downturn in a December 2019 survey.
Economic worries may be a factor in why many Canadians are adjusting their financial habits.
Many respondents (63 per cent) say they have significantly cut down on discretionary spending and more than half (55 per cent) agree they need to get a better handle on their finances this year.
“It’s understandable that Canadians are worried about the economy and are feeling uncertain about the impact on their ambitions, but this is a time when good financial advice conversations are most valuable, including assessing your overall situation, looking at opportunities to improve cash flow, and adjusting your financial plan if necessary,” said Laura Dottori-Attanasio, Group Head, Retail and Business Banking, CIBC. “It’s a positive sign that many Canadians are taking a responsible approach to the situation by making changes to their spending and working to limit unnecessary debt. Good cash flow management now can help you through the current situation, and over the longer term free up funds to divert towards savings or other goals.”
The survey also found that 46 per cent of Canadians say the economic impact of the pandemic has adversely affected their finances and a similar number (47 per cent) feel it will take more than a year to get their personal finances back on track. Canadians are prioritizing building an emergency fund in 2020, citing this as a top goal for the remainder of the year, followed by steering clear of adding on debt. Of the 22 per cent of respondents who’ve had to borrow more in the past 12 months, the number one reason was for day-to-day items (38 per cent) followed by a loss of income (28 per cent).
“The impact of the pandemic will be felt by Canadians for some time. While we have a long way to go to get back to a normal economy, taking charge of your finances now with a savings and debt management plan is an important step towards putting your personal finances back on track,” added Ms. Dottori-Attanasio.
The survey also found:
- Top financial goals for the remainder of 2020 are: generally saving as much as possible (37 per cent), and avoiding taking on more debt (36 per cent)
- Close to three-fourths of Canadians (74 per cent) say the uncertainty of the current environment makes it difficult to plan ahead, and over half (54 per cent) are generally worried about their financial future
- The number of people who say they’ve taken on more debt is lower (22 per cent) than in December 2019 (28 per cent). Among those who have taken on more debt, 38 per cent say they did so to cover day-to-day expenses or due to loss of income (28 per cent) and job loss (18 per cent, +9 per cent from December 2019)
- Regionally, the poll found differences in how Canadians are tightening their wallets. Residents in the Prairies say they are cutting discretionary spending the most, led by 76 per cent of those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and 69 per cent of Albertans, compared to the national average of 63 per cent
- At 58 per cent, taking on more debt to pay for day-to-day items was the highest in British Columbia, 20 per cent higher than the national average of 38 per cent
From June 8th to June 9th 2020 an online survey of 1,517 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada panelists was executed by Maru/Blue. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been weighted by education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec, language) to match the population, according to Census data. This is to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.
CIBC is a leading Canadian-based global financial institution with 10 million personal banking, business, public sector and institutional clients. Across Personal and Business Banking, Commercial Banking and Wealth Management, and Capital Markets businesses, CIBC offers a full range of advice, solutions and services through its leading digital banking network, and locations across Canada, in the United States and around the world. Ongoing news releases and more information about CIBC can be found at www.cibc.com/en/about-cibc/media-centre.html.
WATERLOO, ON, June 29, 2020 /CNW/ – Economical Insurance has set out to reach more than 630,000 eligible policyholders across Canada to ensure participation in the company’s demutualization process.
While the date of Economical’s planned demutualization has yet to be determined, the company is making progress on its plans to convert from a mutual company to a publicly-traded share company. Policyholders who are eligible to participate but have not registered online are likely unaware of their potential financial benefits.
With a focus on connecting with as many eligible policyholders as possible, Economical is boosting awareness for this unique opportunity through targeted social media advertisements, stories, and content throughout the summer.
The campaign will encourage past and present policyholders of Economical Insurance to visit joininourfuture.com to determine whether they are eligible, and if so, to activate an online account and register for future demutualization updates. For customers who held a policy for the 12-month period ending on November 3, 2015, eligibility may apply for one-time financial benefits in the form of cash or shares once Economical becomes a publicly-traded company, owned by shareholders.
By using a geographically targeted social media campaign, Economical aims to reach tens of thousands of their policyholders in an efficient way that allows for broad visibility with a minimal environmental impact.
“We want to encourage our customers who have had either a personal or commercial insurance policy in the given timeframe to check their eligibility to receive financial benefits as part of our planned demutualization,” said Rowan Saunders, President and CEO at Economical Insurance.
Economical is the first Canadian property and casualty insurance company to pursue demutualization under these regulations.
“At a time when many Canadians are under financial pressure, this campaign is timed to ensure as many eligible policyholders as possible are aware of their potential financial benefits,” said David Bradfield, Vice-President, Marketing and Communication at Economical Insurance. “Encouraging more policyholders to register will also facilitate the process associated with our future Special Meeting, where more than 630,000 Canadians will have an opportunity to vote to approve our demutualization.”
Am I eligible for financial benefits?
Current and former customers who held a policy for the 12-month period ending on November 3, 2015 may be eligible to receive such a financial benefit. Customers can confirm eligibility on joininourfuture.com. This simple confirmation process requires customers to input their policy number and postal code from 2015.
Once registered on joininourfuture.com, eligible policyholders will be able to participate in the demutualization process, including voting at the Special Meeting to approve demutualization through their account. A date for this upcoming meeting is yet to be set. Eligible policyholders who register will also be able to see a personalized estimate range of demutualization benefits.
Helping Canadian communities
Economical has previously announced that its demutualization will establish a new charitable foundation that will receive $100 million from the proceeds of a successful demutualization. The foundation’s mission will be to honour Economical policyholders and employees, past and present, by working to have the greatest impact in Canadian communities.
Timeline for receiving financial benefits
Eligible customers can expect to receive financial benefits at the time of Economical’s proposed initial public offering (IPO). Economical is continuously evaluating market conditions, company performance, and other relevant factors that may impact the timing and success of an IPO and, by extension, the remaining steps in the demutualization process.
For more information, visit joininourfuture.com. For assistance with specific questions and direct support with verifying eligibility for the financial benefit, call 1-866-302-6046.
About Economical Insurance
Economical Mutual Insurance Company (“Economical” or “Economical Insurance”, which includes its subsidiaries or affiliates where the context so requires) is a leading property and casualty insurer in Canada, with approximately $2.6 billion in annualized gross written premiums and over $5.8 billion in assets as at March 31, 2020. Economical is a Canadian-owned and operated company that services the insurance needs of more than one million customers.
SOURCE Economical Insurance
WINNIPEG _ A subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco Inc. has signed a deal to buy U.S. investment manager Personal Capital in a deal worth at least US$825 million.
Under the agreement, Empower Retirement will pay US$825 million, plus up to an additional US$175 million subject to the achievement of target growth objectives.
Great-West says Personal Capital is a hybrid wealth manager that combines a digital experience with personalized advice delivered by people.
The company says the deal will combine Empower retirement plan services and financial tools with Personal Capital’s digitally oriented personal wealth management platform.
IGM Financial Inc., a sister company to Great-West, holds a stake in Personal Capital and says it expects US$176.6 million in proceeds from the deal, plus up to an additional $24.6 million in possible additional payments.
The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2020, subject to required regulatory approvals.
MONTREAL, June 29, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – Today, Desjardins’s property & casualty insurance subsidiaries announced they would be issuing $100 million in premium refunds to their Canadian auto insurance clients. The refunds are for eligible personal and commercial insurance clients, who will receive a refund between 25 per cent and 40 per cent of the premium they pay for one month, depending on their market realities. The refund will apply to policies for eligible personal and commercial vehicles.
All told, 2.1 million clients will automatically receive the refund through their usual payment method, so they don’t need to do anything.
More people are working from home than ever before. Combined with the extended lockdown, this means that travel has been limited and car accident risks have been reduced. Fewer accidents mean fewer claims to pay out, so Desjardins has decided to reflect this reality by issuing this refund to its clients.
“Even though we’re beginning to reopen our provinces and cities, the pandemic will continue to affect our members and clients. We’re proud to say that we’re still here for them in these unprecedented times. Right now, we’re able to give $100 million back to our auto insurance clients. This is just one of the many ways that Desjardins has helped its members and clients deal with COVID-19 since March 16,” said Guy Cormier, President and CEO of Desjardins Group.
Today’s announcement follows an initial refund of close to $50 million to auto insurance clients, bringing the total close to $150 million.
About Desjardins Group
Desjardins Group is the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and the sixth largest cooperative financial group in the world, with assets of $326.9 billion. It has been rated one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers by Mediacorp. To meet the diverse needs of its members and clients, Desjardins offers a full range of products and services to individuals and businesses through its extensive distribution network, online platforms and subsidiaries across Canada. Ranked among the world’s strongest banks according to The Banker magazine, Desjardins has some of the highest capital ratios and credit ratings in the industry.
SOURCE Desjardins Group