Sorry, Insurance Lobbyists, but the Alberta Government Has Better Things to Do
As noted in our last blog post a couple of weeks ago, some auto insurance lobbyists seem fond of fibbing -- and why not when it so clearly works for them? Fifteen years ago this month, by falsely claiming that injury claims were skyrocketing (they’d actually been in sharp decline for years) and that the insurance industry was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy (it was actually posting all-time record high profits), the insurance lobby secured government intervention in the form of an unnecessary regulatory scheme artificially capping compensation for Albertans who suffer relatively quickly healing sprains, strains or whiplash injuries due to the negligence of other motorists. Last year, Nötley Crüe threw more injured Albertans under the bus, adding those with certain jaw joint (TMJ) and psychological injuries to the list of victims barred from being fairly compensated by the insurers of the reckless &/or drunk drivers who hurt them.
Now the insurance lobby is back for more, again claiming that the industry is in financial crisis (when in fact it has posted 16 straight years of multi-billion dollar profits) and demanding that the government sacrifice more innocent injured Albertans at the altar, or else! Or else what -- auto insurers will rate shock Albertans like they did 15 years ago? There’s an Auto Insurance Rate Board in place since 2005 that has never let them get away with that and certainly won’t start now. Or else they’ll leave Alberta? What, all 70 of them when most of them are actually raking in massive profits hand over fist? Pull the other one!
The two top items on the auto insurance lobby wish list are:
1. Impose on Albertans a “no-fault” regime, under which the legal compensation rights of innocent victims are confiscated and then distributed to guilty wrongdoers in the form of enhanced benefits, and/or to insurers in the form of padded profit margins. This asinine wish list item is akin to hostage takers including one token nutty ransom demand so that if they get caught, they can plead insanity.
2. When the UCP government of course says “no” to “no-fault”, the auto insurance lobby 101 manual reads: “Well gosh, then at least throw us a bone and add chronic pain sufferers to the list of Albertans no longer entitled to fair insurance compensation for their injuries.” However, unanimous rulings from the Alberta Court of Appeal (Morrow v. Zhang) and Supreme Court of Canada (WCB v. Martin) make it clear that such a regulation restricting the rights of injured Albertans suffering chronic pain would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and thus be unconstitutional. As the Chief Justice of Alberta said in another case (Ferraiuolo v. Olson), “I have considerable reservations whether a limitation on a Charter right for some can be justified because of concerns about rising insurance premiums for others.” Chief Justice Fraser pointed out that this is not a question of having to make hard choices in allocating scarce government resources -- these are private insurance funds we’re talking about, not public, taxpayer dollars, and thus not really the sort of matter with which government should be occupying its valuable time.
We’ll end this post with a quote from our founder and principal counsel: “Jason Kenney, who I’ve known for nearly 25 years, has been the hardest working man in politics for over two decades. His United Conservatives were elected six months ago with more votes than any party in Alberta’s history, with an ambitious platform of 375 commitments to get our province back on track. Not one of those 375 commitments is to molly coddle the insurance lobby by sticking it to injured Albertans, like the NDP government shamefully did last year. As a card-carrying UCP member, I expect better from our new government, and so I call upon UCP MLAs to stand up for vulnerable Albertans and hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions -- which just so happens to be precisely what I do for a living. After 15 years, it’s long past time to scrap the cap!”