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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.

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Alberta

Tampa’s Steven Stamkos returns, Lightning beat Dallas 5-2 in Stanley Cup final

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EDMONTON — Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos returned — very briefly — from a seven-month injury layoff, and scored on his first shot on net as the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 5-2 Wednesday in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.

Victor Hedman had a goal a two assists. Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point also scored for Tampa Bay.

The Lightning lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 4 is set for Friday and Game 5 just 24 hours after that on Saturday night.

Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 21 shots for his 16th win of the playoffs.

Jason Dickinson and Miro Heiskanen replied for Dallas. Anton Khudobin turned away 24-of-29 shots and was replaced by Jake Oettinger for the start of the third period when the score was 5-1. Khudobin is 13-8 in the 2020 post-season.

Stamkos, a two-time winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s goal-scoring leader, last played Feb. 25. He underwent core muscle surgery in early March.  

The 30-year-old from Markham, Ont., started the game on the fourth line with Cedric Paquette and Pat Maroon and didn’t skate on the power play.

He played less than three minutes in the first period, then stayed in the dressing room until well into the second and didn’t leave the bench for the rest of the game.

Nevertheless, he made the most of his 2:47 in ice time, scoring less than seven minutes into the game to make it 2-0 for Tampa.

He took a cross-ice pass from Hedman and, with a burst of speed, slipped through a tiny space between the boards and Dallas defender Esa Lindell, flew in and fired a wrist shot from the right face-off circle top-shelf far side on Khudobin.

Kucherov opened the scoring just over a minute earlier when Heiskanen lost the puck at his own blue-line. Kucherov pounced on it and fired a low missile blocker-side on a breakaway.

Kucherov, with seven goals and 30 points, is the league leader in 2020 post-season scoring.

The Tampa bench erupted in cheers after the Stamkos goal, but it was Dallas that caught fire. Roope Hintz stole the puck in the Tampa end and dished it to Dickinson for a short-handed one-timer from the top of the left face-off circle.

Tampa took control for good in the second period, outshooting Dallas 21-4 and adding three more goals.

Hedman scored on the power play, firing a shot from the slot through traffic for his 10th goal of the playoffs. Kucherov then fed a streaking Point on a 3-on-1 for Point’s 11th goal of the playoffs. Palat then tucked in the puck on a goalmouth scramble.

In the third period, Dallas made it 5-2 when the puck bounced in on a goalmouth melee. Heiskanen got credit.

Stamkos is in his 12th season with the Lightning. He produced 29 goals and 66 points in the regular season, which was cut short on March 12 due to the spread of COVID-19.

The final is being played in front of no spectators at Rogers Place, and players are isolating between games to prevent contracting the coronavirus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Searchers find bodies in Jasper National Park, remains believed to be missing couple

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JASPER, Alta. — Alberta RCMP say searchers have found two bodies in Jasper National Park.

Investigators believe the bodies are the remains of a couple who were reported missing after their vehicle was found in a parking lot at the Mount Edith Cavell Roads trail.

Matthew Kozak and Zabrina Ferrier were last seen on Friday.

Relatives had driven to the area to help with the search.

RCMP say Parks Canada staff in a helicopter found the bodies just before dark on Tuesday night near Verdant Pass.

Jasper RCMP and Parks Canada staff recovered the remains on Wednesday morning.

“It is believed the couple were hiking and succumbed to their injuries after falling from a steep bank in the area,” RCMP said in a release.

RCMP along with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner continue to investigate.

Police say family members have been notified.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020

The Canadian Press

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