The NDP government has made a major announcement to distract attention from an RCMP raid in the traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en people.
While the Mounties were on the Morice River Forest Service Road arresting Indigenous land defenders and their alllies, the premier and a senior cabinet minister were talking about major changes coming to ICBC.
Attorney General David Eby and John Horgan announced that in the coming weeks, legislation will be introduced to lower auto-insurance premiums.
By how much? About $400 per driver, or 20 percent, they said.
It's part of a government plan to remove lawyers and legal costs from the system.
“You shouldn’t need a lawyer to access the benefits you’ve paid for," Eby said in a government news release. "By removing expensive lawyers and legal fees from the system, we are making ICBC work for British Columbians again with more affordable insurance rates and much better coverage, so anyone injured in a crash gets the care they need.”
The B.C. NDP government news release did not use the words "no-fault", preferring to call it a "new care-based system".
"Similar care-based insurance systems exist in Manitoba and Saskatchewan," it states. "Those systems have kept rate changes steady, near 0%."
The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., on the other hand, declared that the B.C. NDP government is indeed introducing a no-fault insurance scheme.
The TLABC declared that in doing so, the NDP has broken 2017 campaign promise. It described this as "an alarming move that puts injured and vulnerable British Columbians further at risk".
"In the spring of 2019, the provincial government introduced legislative changes, including what it promised the public was a 'minor' injury cap," TLABC president John Rice said in a statement. "This is a broken promise to British Columbians, a failed policy, and now a deliberate taking away of the right of British Columbians to receive fair access to courts and fair settlement for those injured on our roads.
"Today, this government is doubling down on its failed policy to take away the legal rights of British Columbians while protecting ICBC management who have gotten us into this mess in the first place."
Rice claimed that it will "reward bad drivers and will reduce the ability for injured and vulnerable British Columbians to receive a fair settlement when injured".
The B.C. NDP politicians, on the other hand, say that maximum care and treatment benefits for anyone injured in a crash are set to rise to at least $7.5 million. That will come along with a zero percent basic rate change, effective April 1.
B.C.'s new system will take effect on May 1, 2021 and will provide wage-loss coverage that's 60 percent higher than today, according to the announcement.
"The old government ignored ICBC’s problems, allowing it to become a system that made lawyers rich, while drivers paid too much for insurance," Horgan claimed.
In 2017, B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver urged the government to consider no-fault insurance, saying the current system "is overly litigious and adversarial".
An Ernst & Young report for the former B.C. Liberal government estimated that such a system—which is already employed by WorkSafe B.C.—could reduce costs by 13.5 percent.
The government announcement included a positive response from the president of Doctors of B.C.
“As physicians, our priority is to ensure that patients get the best possible care," Dr. Kathleen Ross said. "The new care-based model provides significantly better coverage for people injured in traffic accidents through major increases in the level of medical care and supports for recovery. Doctors of BC looks forward to working with government and ICBC to help inform the transition to this enhanced care model.”
Physiotherapy Association of B.C. CEO Chrstine Bradstock also gave the plan the thumbs-up.
"With these changes, patients will have the peace of mind knowing that their care and treatment benefits will be there when they need them and for as long as they need to get better and return to their daily lives," she said.
Meanwhile, in northern B.C. today...