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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.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

Markstrom’s 32-save shutout lifts Calgary Flames to 3-0 win over Vancouver Canucks

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CALGARY — Jacob Markstrom’s 32-save shutout against his former club spurred the Calgary Flames to a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

Sean Monahan, Dillon Dube and Matthew Tkachuk scored power-play goals in Calgary’s home-opener, which was the first NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome since March 8, 2020 for a span of 10 months and eight days.

Canada’s NHL clubs are playing in empty arenas to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Vancouver goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 32 of 35 shots in the loss.

Flames off-season acquisitions Markstrom, defenceman Chris Tanev and forward Josh Leivo faced their former Canucks teammates Saturday.

Markstrom played a combined 243 regular-season and playoff games for Vancouver, while Tanev played 10 seasons and Leivo his last two for the Canuck.

Both Markstrom and Tanev made life difficult for their former club. Tanev led the Flames in blocked shots with seven including three when Calgary was short-handed. 

Former Flames defenceman Travis Hamonic returned to the Saddledome wearing Canuck colours.

Tkachuk had time to go backhand to forehand on a Johnny Gaudreau rebound at beat Holtby’s outstretched right pad at 15:16 of the third period.

Andrew Mangiapane sent a behind-the-back backhanded feed across the high slot for Dube to rifle over Holtby’s shoulder at 16:22 of the second.

The hosts killed off a Canucks two-man advantage for 81 seconds in the opening period. Markstrom turned away three shots and Tanev blocked two attempts during it.

Tkachuk on Holtby’s left fed Monahan in the slot for a power-play goal at 8:31.

The Canucks (1-2-0) played their third road game in four nights to start the regular season. They play again Monday in Calgary before returning to Vancouver. 

Calgary (1-0-1) has a more gentle start to its regular season with a five-day break following Monday’s rematch.

The Flames paid tribute to team president Ken King, who died March 11, and Calgary Police Service Sgt. Andrew Harnett who was killed while working New Year’s Eve.

Notes: Flames goaltender David Rittich dressed Saturday after sitting out the season-opener because of family issues . . . Off-season acquisition Dominik Simon made his Flames debut Saturday . . . Calgary is 9-8-3 in home openers since turn of the century.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Petry, Tatar each score a pair as Canadiens dominate Oilers 5-1

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EDMONTON — Jeff Petry and Tomas Tatar each scored twice Saturday to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 5-1 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton.

Jake Evans also scored for the Canadiens (1-0-1), while Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher both tallied a pair of assists.

Carey Price was nearly perfect on the night making 34 saves to give Montreal its first win of the season. 

Slater Koekkoek was the lone Oiler to sneak a shot past the Canadiens goalie midway through the third period. 

Mikko Koskinen stopped 30-of-35 shots for Edmonton (1-1-1). 

Montreal got on the board early and never relinquished the lead, though the Oilers attempted to claw their way back, outshooting the visitors 26-20 over the final two periods. 

Petry’s first of the night came on a power play 6:50 into the game after Edmonton’s Caleb Jones was called for interference. 

Koskinen stopped Petry’s initial shot but the rebound popped out to the other side of the net, where Petry fired the puck into the open goalmouth. 

Nick Suzuki and Shea Weber were each credited with an assist. 

Tatar widened Montreal’s lead just over two minutes into the second frame, ripping a shot slap shot from below the face off dot over Koskinen’s glove. 

Petry added another tally midway through the second period with a long shot from below the blue line that hit Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear in the rear end and bounced into Edmonton net. 

The Oilers nearly responded on a power play just minutes later thanks to a pristine shot by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but Price made the stop. 

The Canadiens came up with the puck, leading to a short-handed two-on-one at the other end. 

Evans waltzed in and took a shot that ricocheted off Koskinen’s pads and back to the centreman’s stick. His second attempt was a success, sailing in just below the crossbar to put Montreal up 4-0. 

Gallagher sprang Tatar on a breakaway 9:47 into the third period and the Slovak winger slipped a shot through Koskinen’s legs to give the Canadiens their fifth goal of the night. 

The Oilers finally got a puck past Price 12:59 into the third thanks to a sharp-angle shot by Koekkoek that hit the Montreal netminder’s mask and deflected in. 

Despite the final score, Edmonton was first to put a puck in the net Saturday. 

Three minutes into the first period, a collision between Leon Draisaitl and Montreal defenceman Ben Chiarot sent Price sprawling out of his crease. 

Edmonton’s Dominik Kahun took advantage of the situation and shovelled the puck into the open net. 

The goal was quickly called off, with officials on the ice ruling it was incidental contact on the Montreal netminder.

Oilers sensation Connor McDavid had an opportune chance near the end of the first frame, stealing the puck deep in Edmonton territory and using his infamous speed to streak down the ice on a breakaway. He unleashed a wrist shot but Price was ready and made the save. 

Edmonton will have an chance for revenge Monday when they once again host the Canadiens in the second half of the back-to-back series. 

NOTES: The Oilers claimed goalie Troy Grosenick off waivers from the L.A. Kings Saturday. Edmonton has also placed netminder Mike Smith on the long-term injury list. … Koskinen played in his 100th regular-season NHL game. … Edmonton right-winger Zack Kassian was out for the game following the birth of his second child, a daughter named Olivia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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