03/03/2023 by Mark McCourt - Founder of McCourt Law Offices
People Over Profits
Alberta’s automobile insurance industry is swimming in record-high windfall profits in the billions of dollars largely due to the ill-advised actions of the UCP government under the questionable leadership of Jason Kenney. Just months after assuming office in 2019, the Kenney government sent premiums skyrocketing by lifting the lid on the rates that insurers could charge Alberta motorists. The following year, Finance Minister Travis Toews sent bodily injury claims costs per vehicle into a nosedive by passing laws that reduced payouts by insurers to innocent Albertans injured by careless drivers, a move insurance lobbyists claimed would save consumers a quarter of a billion dollars a year -- but go figure, rather than giving people a promised break on premiums, motor vehicle insurance companies pocketed the savings, further fattening their swollen bottom lines.
With auto insurance consumers overcharged and car crash victims undercompensated, is there a solution? We suspect the “solution” favoured by Toews is a monumental scam originally dubbed something like “More Cash, Less McCourt” by the Finance Minister’s insurance lobbyist pals (although we gather they’ve since changed the working title to make their spurious scheme sound more benign), that would see Albertans ROBBED of our age-old traditional legal rights to fair injury compensation and then forced to buy our freedoms back from insurance companies if we can afford to -- and screw us if we can’t. It’s unclear how pedestrians, passengers (mostly women and children), and those who don’t own automobiles are supposed to buy back their stolen rights in this sick swindle.
Currently under long-established tort law principles strongly supported by victims’ rights advocates both at our firm and at the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association (ACTLA), Albertans injured by negligent drivers have the FREEdom to recover 100% full and fair compensation for their chronic pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost income and other losses from at-fault motorists’ insurers. But insurance lobbyists have a “reverse Robin Hood” scam in mind: they want our provincial government to seize inherent civil rights from regular Albertans and hand those confiscated rights to insurers so that auto insurance companies can turn around and SELL these freedoms back to any Albertan willing and able to PAY an extra steep premium to restore them. To add insult to injury, the auto insurance lobby is peddling this repulsive “No-Fault with a Bogus Tort Option” scam by slapping a “Choice” label on it. We kid you not: the proposed “made-in-Alberta solution” for people wanting to recover their expropriated freedoms would be that they could “choose” to pay the ransom. Of course, no ransom, no recovery. Some choice.
Insurance lobbyists claim this sham “expanding choice” plot they’re pitching would save consumers money (much like a “10% off” shoe sale where the catch is you only get one shoe), but they already fooled Toews once in 2020. If Albertans let these lobbyists fool Toews twice, shame on us. A politician would have to be gullible or worse not to grasp the fact that the insurance lobby’s abhorrent and asinine “solution” would only serve to further pad auto insurance companies’ already overly plump profit margins on the backs of ordinary Albertans. The insurance industry’s scheme is so odious and unpopular with Albertans that insurance lobbyists recently removed it from public view on their website -- but not before we made a copy! Of course, Toews won’t try to execute such a slimy scheme on the eve of an election campaign just a couple of months away. No, this is the kind of crap a pliable politico pulls at the beginning of a term, not at the end of one.
We live in a province that values individual rights, law and order, and the belief that wrongdoers must be held responsible for their actions and must fully and fairly compensate those they hurt. It is a fundamental principle of corrective justice that culpable tortfeasors are legally liable (through their insurers) to financially compensate the people they harm for the pain, suffering and other damages wrongfully inflicted upon those injured victims. Albertans (including renowned economists Dr. Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary and Dr. Chris Bruce of the Auto Insurance Rate Board) know that there is a price to be paid for negligence causing harm, and that our government should not rob from innocent injured car crash victims to unjustly enrich reckless drivers and the multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporations that insure those guilty wrongdoers.
Thanks to Travis Toews’ Tory tort deforms, Alberta auto insurance companies currently collect hundreds of millions of dollars more per year in premiums than they pay out in claims and expenses, which is far from good news for accident victims and insurance policyholders. Sadly, it seems that insurance lobbyists somehow fooled the Finance Minister into believing that this sorry situation is necessary in order for the insurance industry to turn a tidy profit. It isn’t. Perhaps it’s not too late to have somebody explain to Travis Toews this brief but informative insurance biz article from the fool.com website. How much money do insurers amass by investing premiums collected and accumulated capital? Isn’t it well past time that our provincial government demand fiscal transparency from an industry pleading poverty and begging for protection from injured claimants while in reality reaping an outrageous fortune and laughing all the way to the bank?
A Premier who stands for people over profits would require that her Minister of Finance address the real problem here and choose the glaringly obvious common-sense solution to reduce overinflated premiums for good Alberta motorists later this year, that being to direct the Auto Insurance Rate Board to mandate a rate reduction, trimming the massive windfall profits of an industry that took full advantage of how well-connected its lobbyists were to our dear departed former Premier Jason Kenney. Perceptive pundits predict the political party leader who proudly and publicly proclaims her preference for people over profits will probably be picked by the populace to be Premier. Whether that person will be Danielle Smith or Rachel Notley remains to be seen, but Albertans keen to reside in a FAIR Alberta deserve to hear from both of them on this issue sooner rather than later.