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Alberta

Insurance rate increases absolutely unacceptable: NDP Critic for Service Alberta

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This post was submitted by Jon Carson, NDP MLA for Edmonton-West Henday, Opposition Critic for Service Alberta

Thirty per cent.

That’s how much auto insurance rates skyrocketed by for some Albertans at the end of this year, after Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP removed the five per cent cap on rate increases that our NDP government brought in, taking a “no limit” approach to how much insurance companies could actually raise rates.

The jump was immediate.

Albertans saw a wave of premium increases bordering on price gouging. Over 90% of car insurance companies filed for rate increases as soon as the cap was lifted, and rushed to bill drivers as soon as they could. Of the companies that received approved rate changes, the increases ranged from 4.9 per cent to an eye-popping 29.8 per cent.

It was a nice gift from Jason Kenney, who already slammed families for hundreds of dollars of new costs in his fall budget, including hikes to income tax, property tax, as well as more in school fees, prescription drugs and college tuition.

As usual, Finance Minister Travis Toews trotted out the UCP’s one-trick pony and blamed the NDP, claiming that insurance companies were set to pack their bags and flee the province if he didn’t let them jack up premiums beyond five per cent.

The lobbying effort came out in full force. The brokers, the insurance companies, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada are working overtime to sell quite the sob story: a massive spike in claims costs, not enough options for drivers, etc, etc. It’s tough times for the poor, little ol’ car insurance company.

What a load. These are some of the biggest and most profitable companies in Canada, and they simply want back the power they had to jack up premiums hand over fist.

The truth is that claims costs over the past few years are level, a fact that’s supported by the Insurance Bureau of Canada‘s own data. In fact, an actuarial analysis by Fair Alberta Injury Regulators, an organization made up of concerned Albertans, doctors and legal experts, found that injury payouts have stabilized in the last few years, and even started to dip in 2019. Their actuary specifically found evidence that claims are “not skyrocketing.”

This is further supported by the Alberta Superintendent of Insurance, responsible for all regulatory oversight of insurers operating in Alberta with a specific duty to ensure that insurance companies treat Albertans fairly. In his annual report for 2018, he found on average that the claims ratio for car insurance was 80 per cent across all companies in Alberta. Not the 120 per cent figure the insurance companies trot out on TV.

And while the UCP Government continues to claim they have documents to prove the cap made the car insurance industry unsustainable, they haven’t provided a single piece of paper showing any of these companies would bail if they could–GASP–only raise premiums five per cent every year.

So why remove the cap? Well, in politics, it’s who you know. And Jason Kenney knows an awful lot of people in the insurance industry. Namely, his former chief of staff and campaign director Nick Koolsbergen, who was hired to lobby the Premier on behalf of the car insurance industry just last year. He has Kenney’s cell phone number.

Sounds like a good guy to have on your side… if you’re a car insurance company.

The fact is, these companies turn a profit of tens of millions of dollars each year. They’re used to having carte blanche in Alberta, and they want it back.

Under the thinly-veiled guise of “red tape reduction”, the UCP has struck a panel looking at more regulatory changes that the insurance lobby itself has said “could also change the rate regulation framework that governs how insurers set premiums.”

If costs are going to go up even more, who will Jason Kenney look out for? His friends and interests in big insurance? Or everyday Albertans driving to work?

Knowing Jason Kenney, Albertans should brace for impact.

Jon Carson is the MLA for Edmonton-West Henday and the Alberta NDP Opposition Critic for Service Alberta.

Alberta

Alberta politicians swap charges of bullying, misogyny after member ejected

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s Opposition NDP tried and failed Thursday to censure the deputy speaker for evicting one of their members from the house in a day that saw both sides accuse each other of belittling and marginalizing women in politics.

The governing United Conservatives voted down an NDP motion to discuss whether deputy Speaker Nicholas Milliken should still have his job after he ordered NDP member Marie Renaud out of the chamber during debate the evening prior.

Milliken ejected Renaud after she accused UCP members of trying to intimidate her through gestures while she was standing to speak to a bill.

Milliken said Renaud’s comments imputed unfair motives and were disrupting the house, and ordered her to withdraw the comments and apologize.

Renaud withdrew the remarks but would not apologize and was evicted for the balance of the night.

On Thursday, Renaud told reporters she faced mocking gestures, stares and facial expressions to try to throw her off balance during her speech.

“It happens frequently to a lot of women in our caucus. And last night was just bad and I called it out,” said Renaud.

Milliken is a United Conservative backbencher but is expected to be impartial when directing debate from the Speaker’s chair.

NDP house leader Heather Sweet said the NDP made the motion because Milliken failed to not only address Renaud’s concerns but focused the blame on her, calling into question his impartiality.

“It affects every single member from having the ability to stand in this house and to be able to feel freely without harassment to debate with the intent of having the Speaker be a neutral, non-partisan body,” Sweet told Speaker Nathan Cooper in making the motion.

UCP backbencher Laila Goodridge challenged Renaud, telling the house that bullying and intimidation can’t be countenanced but heckling is a part of politics, and having someone focus their attention on you in the house is respectful and appropriate.

“We need to be careful not to label everything and everyone we don’t like as bullying. Not liking something does not make it bullying,” said Goodridge. 

“I would suggest that if someone doesn’t want people looking at them when they speak, perhaps they’re not in the right field.”

The debate was the capstone to a Wednesday that saw typical attacks, insults and angry hyperbole between the NDP and UCP boil over. It even dragged in the memory of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

During debate of a bill that would allow non-constitutional referendums, NDP member Marlin Schmidt pointed out that even conservative icon Thatcher had concerns that referendums can be twisted to curtail minority rights.

“Just let me say that I am no fan of Margaret Thatcher,” Schmidt added.

“If nothing else goes right for me in a day, I can at least count on enjoying the fact that Margaret Thatcher is still dead. And the only thing I regret about Margaret Thatcher’s death is that it happened probably 30 years too late.”

At the direction of the Speaker, Schmidt apologized and withdrew the remarks.

On Thursday, UCP backbencher Miranda Rosin told the house that Schmidt’s remarks make it difficult for women to enter politics.

“The disgusting comments we heard, which celebrated the death of the greatest female leader in the 20th century … will not be encouraging to any woman who wishes to seek elected office,” said Rosin.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2020

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Three more patients die from COVID-19 outbreak at Edmonton hospital

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EDMONTON — Three more patients linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at an Edmonton hospital have died.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro reported the deaths at the Misericordia Community Hospital in a statement on Twitter.

The announcement comes one day after health officials said three patients had died from the illness, and 20 other patients and 15 staff had tested positive.

Alberta Health declared a full outbreak at the facility and said it would not be admitting new patients.

Shandro says his thoughts are with the families of the six patients who have died.

He says his department is monitoring the situation at the hospital and he has full confidence that measures are in place to prevent further spread of infections.

“Our hospitals remain safe, and this outbreak is being managed as safely and effectively as possible,” he said in the statement Thursday.

“I know the physicians, staff and volunteers at the Misericordia are working extremely hard in challenging circumstances, and I thank them for the care they’re providing.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2020

The Canadian Press

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july, 2020

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