It must have been music to their ears when the Toronto branch of ACTRA, the union representing Canadian performers, announced to its more than 15,000 members that “Ontario is getting ready to roll!” Anyone looking to make a film or TV production in the province is now free to do so — as long as they don’t do it in Leamington.
For content-starved Canadian viewers, this must be good news as well.
There’s only one problem: there’s currently not a single rated insurer in the world that will provide coverage to film and TV producers without a COVID-19 exclusion.
Unless government steps in, the situation won’t improve anytime soon.
Fortunately, the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) has tabled a proposal that could solve the problem. Specifically, it’s asking the federal government to provide a $100-million backstop for COVID-19-related insurance claims.
The CMPA plan is not a handout. Producers would be required to pay an additional premium for the coverage. However, unlike the policies offered by large global insurance companies, whose COVID-19 exclusions are being driven by the out of control outbreak south of the border, this Made in Canada solution would be designed to address the specific risks of producing in this country.
It would allow the industry to get back to work. If the government decides to act.
Canada’s production industry is a highly fragmented web of small business owners (producers) and independent service providers (writers, directors, actors, composers, crew and others). Most producers have small full-time staffs and hire the bulk of their workers on a project-by-project basis.
This model applies equally well for a cooking show, a dramatic television series, a Telefilm-funded Canadian movie, or one of the many American films that are regularly seen shooting around Toronto, Vancouver and other Canadian locations.
In normal times, all this adds up to big business, supporting more than 180,000 direct jobs and adding an estimated $12.78 billion to the nation’s GDP.
Until there’s a safe and effective vaccine the biggest risk to any production is a COVID-19-related shutdown. That may take the form of a lead performer or director becoming seriously ill or dying, or a government reimposing lockdown in the middle of filming.
The TV networks, lenders and equity financiers who fund productions are not willing to assume that risk and require insurance coverage without any exclusions. Without such insurance, there can be no production.
Allowing this situation to continue is bad policy for several reasons.
Most obviously, a sizable industry that governments across the country have deemed safe to reopen is effectively prevented from doing so. In provinces like Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, which have active production industries and three diagnosed case of COVID-19 between them, the case for returning to work is especially compelling
Since writers, directors, performers, composers and crew are not full-time employees, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy provides no relief.
Some in the industry are eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is a direct financial cost to the government and provides a bare subsistence income in the costly urban centres where production talent is most concentrated.
The excerpted article was written by
A parking lot outside a hotel in northeast Calgary is full of American licence plates from states like Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Utah and South Carolina.
CRU Adjusters confirmed to Global News it has hired adjusters from across the continent following the hail storm that pounded the city earlier this month.
About 300 adjusters have come in from outside Alberta, including about 100 from the United States, for a mix of desk and fieldwork.
A CRU executive said it has strict COVID-19 protocols — employees are to stay in their rooms as much as possible, wear masks when leaving, and practise social distancing at customers’ homes. Customers are contacted by phone and do not come out of the home for exterior inspections. When CRU adjusters have to go into the home, homeowners are advised to stay in different rooms during assessments.
Before being dispatched to Calgary, the adjusters had to answer health, travel and close contact questionnaires for CRU, and are advised to immediately self-isolate if they have any coronavirus-related symptoms and to contact Alberta Health.
The adjusters have been in Calgary for nearly two weeks and have more than six weeks work ahead of them. CRU said they are not planning on bringing any more adjusters to the province.
The adjuster company said they worked with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), who deemed these adjusters an essential service and provided them with necessary documentation.
And according to PHAC’s website, the documentation excuses the adjusters from having to self-isolate for 14 days.
Alberta Health said it was unaware of this group of adjusters coming to Calgary, and have begun working with PHAC to monitor the adjusters.
One hotel employee Global News spoke with said they ask out-of-province guests to respect social distancing, and even ask them to skip attending the complimentary breakfast.
In email from General Manager Ryan Ocbina said Element by Westin Calgary Airport follows all provincial and federal public health guidelines and follows a chain-wide commitment to cleanliness during the coronavirus pandemic. Ocbina’s hotels also provide complimentary masks and have removed all high-contact areas like self-serve coffee.
In an emailed statement, IBC confirmed it does help insurance companies “gain approval from relevant authorities to bring adjusters in from outside jurisdictions to assist consumers in response to catastrophic events, if required.
“Insurers are utilizing as many in-house and local claims representatives as possible to manage the high volume of claims from this event.”
But most insurance companies Global News spoke with confirmed they are using local adjusters.
“We can confirm that the vast majority of insurers have been using Canadian adjusters,” the ICB statement said.
“Some insurers utilize third-party independent catastrophic adjusting firms during catastrophic events to ensure clients get help as quickly as possible.”
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.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
The excerpted article was written by
Some travellers are questioning why they are still paying for travel insurance when the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to all non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gail Bourne travels to the United States at least twice a year. The Vancouver resident says she bought an annual travel insurance policy with BCAA for $845.21 for coverage between Nov. 9, 2019 and Nov. 9, 2020. However, when the borders shut down this past March, her travel plans were put on hold.
“I just thought it was unfair that I’m paying for something I can’t do,” Bourne said.
Bourne has been a BCAA member for 51 years. She says she reached out to BCAA to cancel her insurance or at least extend her current policy but says she was initially denied.
“I felt slighted. I had been a faithful customer for all these years and they wouldn’t do anything for me,” she said.
Consumer Matters reached out to BCAA on Bourne’s behalf. BCAA told Global News under normal circumstances once a customer uses their annual policy to travel there is no refund, but also acknowledged these are not normal times and states it’s looking at these situations on a case-by-case basis.
Bourne says within days of Consumer Matters reaching out, BCAA agreed to give her a partial refund of more than $400 with her policy still in effect until November 2020.
North Vancouver resident John Rowlands didn’t have the same success when it came to getting a refund for his wife’s travel insurance. She has MEDOC travel insurance, an annual 17-day base travel plan with Johnson Insurance. Her premium is $913 with monthly deductions of $75.31 a month. The policy states it cannot be cancelled until the end of the policy year.
“What are we paying for? It’s supposed to be for travel insurance and yet it means nothing,” he said.
When contacted by Consumer Matters, Johnson Insurance stated:
“Our annual base plans have a fixed one-year term and are designed to cover multiple trips, allowing customers to take advantage of trip cancellation, trip interruption and medical coverage throughout the year. Clients with specific questions about their policy should contact us directly.”
The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), which represents life and health insurance providers, says typically an annual travel plan covers an individual for any travel taken over 12 months. In most cases, a policyholder may cancel an annual plan as long as there has been no travel taken in that period.
However, once travel occurs, the plan can’t be cancelled because the plan works by spreading the insured’s risk over the term of the plan. Still, many insurers it says have offered to extend coverage on annual plans during the pandemic.
Once the border opens to non-essential travel, the CLHIA recommends the following for travel outside of Canada:
- Check with insurer to see if your current workplace travel insurance, or the policy offered by the insurer includes treatment related to COVID-19 outside Canada
- Know the entry requirements for the country (eg. 14-day quarantine, COVID-19 tests)
- Ensure travel insurance coverage for entire duration of trip
- Consider purchasing “cancel for any reason” trip cancellation insurance for maximum flexibility
Source: Global News
The excerpted article was written by KELLY CRYDERMAN | CALGARY
The hail storm came up fast, with a sound like someone was throwing rocks at their walls and roof.
Then Mona Kadri saw a white pellet fall and bounce inside her house. A loud crash followed as the skylight gave way, shattered by the force of the hail, sending glass and ceiling pieces crashing down. She and her husband sheltered in the living room away from the golf ball-sized hail that pounded her spiral staircase, while the family cat, Brie, cowered in the basement.
“It was like a war zone,” said Ms. Kadri, 60, of the June 13 evening when an unusually powerful cloudburst hit Calgary’s northeast neighbourhoods.
The hail and rain storm flooded streets, shredded siding on thousands of houses, hammered cars, smashed windows, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Even Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s house wasn’t spared.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in all of my years. It’s like the homes have been shot at, straight from the air,” said Tom Sampson, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.
For Ms. Kadri and thousands of others affected by the storm, the burning question two weeks later is how to pay insurance deductibles, and for repairs and cleanup not covered by their policies. With the losses mounting, the provincial government’s announcement Thursday that it will be providing emergency disaster funding only for uninsurable property losses – mainly overland flooding – as well as municipal cleanup costs, is unlikely to quiet the calls for help paying for property damage that was mostly caused by hail.
The storm has exacerbated what was already a difficult situation for the diverse, working-class quadrant of Calgary. The city’s unemployment rate sits above 13 per cent. Many lost work or shut down their businesses when COVID-19 hit. Ms. Kadri’s one-woman catering business has seen bookings dry up as large gatherings are cancelled because of the pandemic. Others lost their jobs when oil prices crashed in April.
“COVID has come at probably the worst time ever in Alberta’s history,” said Khalil Karbani, a spokesman for community associations and religious groups in the area.
“And over and above all that, we have this hail storm,” he said.
“It’s survival mode right now.”
Southern and central Alberta, and northeast Calgary and nearby Airdrie in particular, are well-known for the ferocity of their summertime hail storms. Over the past decade, there have been more than two dozen hail storms in Alberta with damages totalling more than $4-billion in insured losses.
The rate of severe weather events in Alberta has increased in the past decade. But it appears the damage from June 13 is much more widespread, and could be the most expensive of a run of major summer hail storm events since 2010. The mayor says the damage could hit $1-billion – and could perhaps have damaged more homes than the 2013 flood – while the province pegs it at $250-million to $500-million. The storm hit Calgary, Airdrie and Rocky View. In communities such as Saddle Ridge and Taradale, block after block is marked by houses with damaged siding, shattered windows, and vehicles that appear as if they were battered with hammers.
Given the size and velocity of the hail that came down, “my estimate is that any car parked on the road north of 64th Avenue is probably a write-off,” said George Chahal, councillor for Ward 5, the epicentre for damage.
This hail was unusually concentrated on a populous and urban area, upping the amount of property damage, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Mr. Karbani argues some insurance companies are only willing to cover a portion of damages because of depreciation and are “hiding behind the fine print” of their policies. Some people, he noted, cancelled comprehensive auto insurance, which includes hail damage, while their vehicles were parked unused during the pandemic.
He said the province should set up a special disaster relief fund lest the damage to houses, cars and psyches be left unattended for months and years. “It has broken us in pieces already.”
Premier Jason Kenney agreed during a news conference Thursday that the timing of the storm could not be worse. But he said the government is not willing to pay above and beyond the Disaster Recovery Program, which doesn’t cover hail, sewer backup and insurance deductibles.
“If the government steps in and starts making payments for insurable private property, that would create a very serious moral hazard where people would – in the future – say they have no need to insure their property.”
The Premier added that such a move would effectively “bail out” insurance companies, as they wouldn’t face the impetus to make good on their policies if they knew the government was going to step in.
As of midday Thursday, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said more than 35,000 insurance claims related to the storm had been made. More claims are coming in every hour, said Rob de Pruis, a spokesman for the industry group.
People should have been aware of the limitations of their policies when they purchased them, he said, and some made the choice to purchase a less extensive policy to keep their premiums lower.
“An insurance policy is not a maintenance policy,” he added.
Mr. Kenney pledged his government will push insurance companies to honour policies, and “do so generously, erring on the side of the claimants.”
Source: The Globe and Mail