Changes to Alberta’s auto insurance regulations are on track despite a delay in the approval process.
“We’re still hoping to have things ready to roll for the fall (legislature) session, which is next month,” said Jerry Bellikka, a spokesman for Alberta Finance, which governs auto insurance.
Last week, the province’s standing policy committee on finance and economic development asked Tory MLA Rob Renner, who presented proposed changes to auto insurance rules, to come back with more information. Had the committee been satisfied, it could have recommended that the Conservative caucus – all government MLAs, including Premier Ralph Klein and his cabinet – accept the changes right away.
“We’re still targeting next spring for the implementation of a new system, but we have some more work to do for the standing policy committee to bring back some of the answers to some of the questions they had,” said Bellikka.
He said Renner will report back to the standing policy committee in “a few weeks,” but no date has been set. The spokesman said the biggest question is how to define a serious and less-serious injury.
Renner has proposed that compensation for all non-catastrophic injuries be capped at $4,000. More serious injuries, including paraplegia, quadriplegia, brain injuries and burns, would be exempt from the cap. His plan also calls for the province to set basic vehicle insurance rates, increase premiums for drivers who are at fault in accidents, and provide safe-driving discounts for each year of claim-free driving, to a maximum discount of 65 per cent.
Premium prices would no longer be based on age, gender and marital status, while drivers in Edmonton – the scene of more collisions – would pay slightly more than drivers in Calgary.
Mark McCourt, an Edmonton injury accident lawyer who acts for the Accident Victims Insurance Policyholders Advocate has criticized the plan as being a continuation of the government’s blame-the-victim campaign.
Jim Rivait, vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, has praised the plan to cap soft-tissue injury claims, but attacked the province for removing such factors as age, gender and marital status which, he argues, ensure that low-risk drivers pay lower premiums.
After receiving approval from the standing policy committee, Renner’s recommendations will go to Klein’s cabinet and then caucus.