04/04/2023 by Mark McCourt - Founder of McCourt Law Offices
Support Ordinary Albertans, Not Ontario-Based Insurance Lobbyists
The powerful auto insurance lobby was well positioned for the Alberta election that occurred four years ago, in April of 2019. The Insurance Bureau of Canada, correctly predicting that Jason Kenney would lead the United Conservative Party to victory over Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party, appointed Kenney’s former press secretary Celyeste Power as chief Alberta lobbyist less than a year before that election. Yes, the IBC evidently had faith that Nick Koolsbergen, the UCP’s election campaign chair, would come through. Immediately after (or gosh, maybe even the month before) that election, Koolsbergen started his own lobbying firm and was promptly hired by the IBC to lobby a grateful Premier Kenney and his brand spanking new UCP government. Spoiler alert -- the Koolsbergen-Power couple have been richly rewarded for their subsequent lobbying success: Koolsbergen, CEO of Wellington Advocacy, has seen his lobbying firm (evidently a handy repository for former Kenney advisors) grow and grow. And Power was named CEO of the IBC on New Year’s Day 2023.
So soon as he became Premier, Kenney appointed Travis Toews as his Finance Minister and together, the two quickly got to work tending to whatever wishes the Premier’s insurance lobbyist pals desired. Step one, a few months after taking office, remove the restriction on rates auto insurers could charge (a rate cap put in place by the previous NDP government), sending Alberta motorists’ premiums through the roof.
But the insurance lobby wasn’t satiated, seeing the UCP’s removal of the rate cap as merely an appetizer. No, the auto insurance industry wanted a Full Meal Deal, and soon thereafter supplied the UCP with its own custom menu, euphemistically called “Driving Change: Auto Insurance that Works”. As you can read for yourself, the insurance lobby’s wish list included “Short-Term Reforms” to rip away compensation from innocent Albertans injured by reckless or drunk drivers (promptly and obediently implemented by the Kenney-Toews dynamic duo precisely to insurance industry specifications), and far more damaging (to good Alberta motorists, that is) longer-term reforms designed to rob injured Albertans of even more rights to recover compensation from the insurers of careless drivers, saving insurance companies billions of dollars that can be reallocated to reduce rates/increase benefits for bad drivers and, of course, to further spike already sky-high industry profit figures (excessive profits enjoyed in no small part thanks to Finance Minister Toews freezing rates at grossly overinflated levels earlier this year).
As we are all aware, Kenney abruptly quit politics last year. Danielle Smith edged out Toews in the race to replace Kenney as UCP leader (and thus Premier of Alberta), but graciously (albeit erroneously) let the patently unconservative Toews remain as Finance Minister. Happily, Toews announced late last month that he is not seeking re-election, hopefully thus terminating the Finance Department's toxic tryst with auto insurance lobbyists. With the departure of both Jason Kenney and now Travis Toews from provincial politics, we are cautiously optimistic that the UCP government Won’t Get Fooled Again by the insurance lobby. However, unless Premier Smith publicly proclaims her support for People Over Profits, Albertans may have reason to worry that the New Boss (Smith) is essentially the Same as the Old Boss (Kenney). Sorry UCP, We’ve Seen This Movie Before, and so with her insurance lobby patsy Finance Minister no longer behind the steering wheel on this file, our Premier is well advised to flip the script, pull an abrupt U-turn, and announce a campaign platform that includes an Auto Insurance Premium Haircut made by trimming industry profits, not by gutting Albertans’ rights and rendering the Standard Auto Policy about as useless as Alberta Volcano Insurance. Otherwise, the New Boss after next month’s votes are counted might be the Old Boss previously elected by Albertans as Premier back in May of 2015.