Editor’s note: The story has been updated to reflect the fact that the Insurance Bureau of Canada is an advocate for private insurers.

The water, the weather and the whales are all things British Columbians brag about to our neighbours on the other side of the Rockies.

But according to a new report, Albertans have the edge on one thing affecting our daily lives: car insurance rates.

“Unfortunately for us west of Rockies we are paying hundreds of dollars more annually under ICBC’s monopoly,” Insurance Bureau of Canada vice-president Aaron Sutherland said. “This report gives us the first apples-to-apples comparison of what the same driver is paying to insure the same vehicle in B.C. and Alberta.”

For example there is Bill. The small business owner drives a Ford truck for work and would pay $2,058 a year for insurance in Surrey, compared to $1,399 in Calgary. That is a $659 difference.

MNP also created a family of three that drives a 2012 Honda Accord with no at-fault crashes. In Kelowna, the family would pay $1,688 to insure their car, $563 more than the $1,125 they would pay in in Red Deer.

Finally there is 26-year-old Caitlin, who also has no at-fault crashes. She drives a 2014 Honda Civic and would pay $2,897 annually for insurance in Vancouver compared to $2,209 in Calgary, a difference of nearly $700.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada is a strong advocate for private insurance and is pushing for more private options in B.C.

Alberta was used as a point of comparison is because of its proximity to B.C. and similarities in the insurance product.

MNP found that following the implementation of changes in B.C. after April 1, both provinces will have tort-based insurance systems with a minor injury cap. In both provinces, regulatory oversight is provided by two independent entities, one responsible for regulating rates and another responsible for regulating the business of insurance.

Both provinces also set insurance premiums by using a risk-based model.

The biggest difference between the two is ho insurance is sold. In Alberta all auto insurance is sold and distributed through a competitive market, while ICBC has a monopoly on basic insurance and competition only in the optional market. B.C. also has a brokerage model with strict limits to entry.

“When you are doing comparisons from province to province it actually gets quite complicated,” ICBC CEO Nicolas Jimenez said. “The reality, when you look at B.C. to Alberta, what you are getting is a very different product in British Columbia. Our accident benefits are six times higher, you know the liability benefits are double, the wage benefits are double. It’s like comparing an Audi A4 to Honda Civic.

“What the report is failing to mention is the solution here in British Columbia is not a public-private debate, it is to fix the system. The system is not about who delivers it, it’s about the product.”

MNP conducted the study by gathering for each driver profile through a broker in Alberta. The broker provided eight quotes for each profile. The accounting firm  then compared quotes in B.C. with the average of the lowest three quotes in Alberta for each profile and the lowest quote in Alberta.

“Compared with the lowest quote, drivers in B.C. were estimated to pay between 13 per cent and 60 per cent more than they would in Alberta for comparable coverage,” the report reads.

“Premiums for recreational vehicles were estimated to be up to three times higher in B.C. than they would in Alberta for similar coverage, and premiums for motorcycles were estimated to be 11 per cent higher in B.C. than they would be in Alberta for similar coverage.”

The private insurance companies have been lobbying for insurance changes in Alberta and like British Columbia the industry has been described as in crisis.

“It is very difficult for many classes of Alberta drivers to get insurance right now,” Attorney General David Eby said. “They have described the Alberta market as in crisis. The other major private market in Canada is Ontario, which has also been described as being in crisis.”

 

Eby says he understands that private insurers want to operate in British Columbia and they already compete on the optional insurance side. But he says ICBC provides customers with better service and more affordable rates than the private insurance companies.

“If they think they can offer more affordable rates for British Columbians, they should maybe start doing that and then they can show to British Columbians that  they can provide better service and more affordable rates,” Eby said.

“But ICBC still has in excess of 90 per cent of the optional market because ICBC offers better rates than the private insurers on the optional side as well.”

“I don’t pretend for a second obviously that we are in any less crisis than Alberta and Ontario. We’re all in insurance crisis, just different kinds. None of the crises in any of the provinces are going to be addressed by public or private. What is going to address the crisis is fixing the system.”

The British Columbia government is in the midst of making major changes at ICBC.

ICBC will be capping payouts for soft-tissue and short-term brain injury settlements at $5,500. In September the province will be changing the rate model so good drivers pay less and bad drivers pay more.

“Twenty-five per cent of drivers are actually going to see lower rates under these changes that are coming forward and some drivers are going to see significant increases because they’ve been causing at-fault accidents,” Eby said.

The B.C. Liberals were in power when ICBC rates started to go up. But Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says current government action has led to sharper increases and in one case a bill for $8,000.

The Liberals are now calling for more competition in the car insurance industry.

“ICBC is a 46-year-old state run monopoly,” Wilkinson said. “It’s time for choice, British Columbians deserve choice in their auto insurance.”

Article courtesy of Global National