The provincial government is introducing legislation this week that will end the practice of governments transferring surplus funds from ICBC into general revenue to prop up B.C.’s bottom line.
The legislation will make it illegal for surpluses from the Crown corporation to be transferred to general revenue without a majority vote of the legislature.
According to Attorney General David Eby, previous B.C. Liberal governments moved surplus ICBC funds of almost $1.2 billion to general revenue between 2009 and 2016:
• $576 million: 2009-10
• $101 million: 2010-11
• $237 million: 2013-14
• $139 million: 2014-15
• $138 million: 2015-16
The B.C. Liberals did the transfers under what they called shareholder dividends.
"For many years, the old government treated ICBC like an ATM," Eby said. "It raided ICBC's profits to the tune of $1.2 billion, seriously eroding ICBC's financial stability and leading to higher premiums. With these proposed changes, in those years when ICBC does make a profit, those funds will now stay within ICBC so they can be used to make auto insurance rates more affordable, and for other ICBC programs and services that benefit drivers."
This proposed legislation will be introduced this week. Upcoming legislation will also address the previously announced enhanced-care coverage, set to begin in May 2021, under a form of no-fault insurance that is intended to save B.C. drivers an average of $400 per year. Such insurance systems place strict limitations on when a person can sue following a crash. ICBC expects that to result in 20 per cent savings, which they say will be reflected in lower premiums.
Under the enhanced-care coverage, injured parties could sue only when the at-fault driver is convicted of a criminal driving offence stemming from the crash or in the case of a third party — such as an automaker or repair shop — that demonstrates negligence resulting in injuries.
In taking legal action off the table, ICBC sets dollar-figure amounts for compensation for when B.C. residents are injured in a crash, figures that had previously been settled by lawyers or calculated by a judge following a trial.
Legislation will increase maximum care and treatment benefits for people injured in a crash to $7.5 million — or more in some cases for catastrophic injuries that require long-term care. The current cap is about $300,000, with many areas of care determined through legal disputes.
According to ICBC, enhanced-care coverage will include care and treatment benefits up to 24 times higher than what exists today and wage-loss coverage 60 per cent higher than current rates, as well as new benefits including money for caregivers and others impacted by a person’s injuries.