In February 2020, the Government of British Columbia announced plans to make sweeping changes to Auto Insurance in BC.
Contrary to specific advice to British Columbians that it would not introduce a “No Fault” style Auto Insurance model; and, following earlier implementation of modest procedural and substantive changes, with a demonstrated reduction in operating costs and projected surplus, the Government, in a complete reversal, now proposes to introduce a “No Fault” style Auto Insurance model.
The newly proposed model is the substance of Bill-11. Bill-11 is anticipated to proceed to second reading when the legislature resumes on March 23, 2020.
We write with respect to efforts by the CDL executive to persuade the Government not to proceed with this unnecessary, avoidable, and detrimental initiative.
Elizabeth Harris, fellow director, and I, met with Provincial MLA David Eby, QC, Minister for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and Attorney General, on March 12, 2020.
Our advocacy on your behalf was directed at the employment consequences of the proposed “No-Fault” model.
Our principal arguments were:
• law firms provide professional employment for many employees who will be directly negatively affected by this product reform;
• access to justice will be impacted by the foreseeable loss of legal representation, particularly in the many small towns in British Columbia. For many small-town firms, ICBC serves either the role of “anchor” client or, for firms prosecuting plaintiff personal injury claims, a source of necessary revenue;
• the new product will have a disproportionately negative effect on women in professional employment as women overwhelmingly comprise those employed in the primary, secondary and tertiary industries that serve the current Auto Insurance business in British Columbia; and,
• there will be a loss from general revenue consequent to reduced provincial taxes associated with job loss in the industry and the loss of Provincial Sales Tax (PST) levied on legal fees.
Minister Eby advised us that the current government intends to proceed with terminating the tort model of litigating Auto Insurance claims in British Columbia. Our offer to attempt to mediate between the Government and the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia, so as to facilitate a more orderly, less draconian, but responsive product reform was rejected.
Minister Eby, however, advised that the government will be implementing a strategy for those negatively affected by the government’s proposed course. The strategy will try to assist with transition to alternate practice areas. Minister Eby expressed the hope that such strategy may ameliorate the impact of the negative employment consequences which are the direct result of the proposed legislation. It is unclear at this time what those realistic alternate practice areas might be or how the wider issue of unemployment would be addressed by this strategy.
Since speaking to Minister Eby, I have expressed the same concerns to MLA Michael Lee (Official Opposition critic for the Attorney General). MLA Lee advised that his party will be challenging the enabling legislation and ancillary amendments to the Evidence Act. MLA Lee acknowledged a need for product reform, but indicated his preferred approach was to focus on cost, choice and trust.
Canadian Defence Lawyers will continue to advocate on behalf of its members and lobby the Government. We invite your constructive comment. You may wish to engage your own MLAs on this very significant issue.
Yours very truly,
President, Canadian Defence Lawyers