|John Twigg, BC Conservative Director|
of Policy and Communication.
If you’ve been watching any B.C. television news lately you may have seen a new advertisement from Insurance Corporation of B.C., but it tells a story far beyond what’s in the message.
It may or may not be a new ad but I saw it for the first time on the night of March 2, probably during the hockey game or maybe in a newscast – but in any case it’s obviously yet another piece of pre-election partisan propaganda from the B.C. Liberal Party government being paid for by taxpayer dollars.
The budget released on Feb. 21 revealed among many things that the government of Premier Christy Clark has doubled its spending on advertising this year to about $15 million, which is for yet another blizzard of commercials trying to influence the voting decisions of viewers.
But really the message also is to distract voters’ attentions away from the many examples of bad mismanagement by the Clark Liberals, and by the politically corrupt regime of Gordon Campbell before them that began in 2001.
In this ad’s case a little boy in a school setting naively reveals how his father has faked an insurance claim and now is at home living a life of ease and with lots of time to play with his son.
That’s obviously an example of misleading advertising because only a very narrow slice – one-tenth of one per cent? – of accident victims are so blatantly fraudulent. Yes some claims may be exaggerated but ICBC and the courts have systems to duly determine such things when necessary – so fraud is NOT the main problem facing ICBC though they’d like us to think so.
In fact the real fraud is the ad itself because it deliberately smokescreens the real problems facing ICBC and tries to shift the blame elsewhere. If the father and his son were also visible minorities there would have been outrage at such a deceit.
Regrettably the politicians and ICBC officials have been using a number of such ploys to try to shift the blame away from their own failings, such as too much distracted driving, which yes IS a real problem too but again ICBC has been exaggerating it.
Another canard has been the rising cost of repairing new-technology vehicles and especially high-end ones, but again if so why has ICBC not adjusted its rates accordingly? In fact they did tweak the high-end car insurance by hiving it off last year to private insurers but again that is merely another relatively small problem.
No, the real problem inside and with ICBC is its gross mismanagement for about 15 years by two venal Liberal regimes, with some culpability shared by a too-compliant board of directors and by take-the-money-and-keep-quiet senior executives on six-figure salaries (whose ranks apparently were recently thinned, which perhaps was yet another smokescreen).
How? Well it goes back to Gordon Campbell’s order that ICBC stop making generous settlement offers and instead force more claimants to litigate, which caused the number, ratio and size of appellants to soar, and enriched several hundred lawyers and medical consultants and physiotherapists and such, all taking a big slice while the appellants’ cases are delayed delayed delayed until the settlement money is almost all gone.
I am personally aware of two little old ladies who were hit in crosswalks by ICBC-insured drivers and yet their claims took years to settle and by the time the lawyers were paid there was virtually nothing left.
An industry expert who shall remain nameless told me recently that ICBC’s first offer to settle usually about one-tenth to one-fifth of the appropriate amount then after about two years of negotiation and litigation involving lawyers the final settlement is about five or 10 times more than the first offer but the lawyers take about one-third of that, or sometimes more if they are not on a contingency contract and instead charge time plus costs, and by the time the professionals are finished the claimant still gets only five or 10 per cent. And meanwhile a host of medical specialists, physiotherapists and other service providers are done the cost to ICBC far exceeds the initial fair settlement level – and no one wins except the lawyers, professionals and office workers.
So really the problem behind ICBC’s financial problems – which now are massive – is ICBC itself becoming too litigious.
But then of course there’s also the fact that ICBC’s reserve funds have been drained by the provincial government, to the tune of $1.2 billion in recent years, it has lost more than $800 million on operations and it has unsettled claims totaling $8.8 billion – probably among other horrific indicators.
But ICBC is not alone!
Even bigger and costlier is that the same pattern of management – build up a slush fund and then drain it in the pre-election year – has been used even more so on B.C. Hydro, but that’s a story for another day and meanwhile the key point is that the B.C. Liberals have been abusing taxpayers in order to cynically build up a pre-election slush fund to support a blizzard of small but good-news announcements.
Indeed that general pattern of usurping money for partisan advantage has become the hallmark of the B.C. Liberals’ 16+ years in power, and it’s a big reason why they deserve to be turfed in the May 9 election.