Monday, February 18, 2008

On insurance, the Bell is only half-rung

A comment from yesterday's post returns me to the issue of public auto insurance and specifically looks for reaction to Rick Bell's most recent column on the issue.


Rick is absolutely correct when he talks about the follies of the reforms introduced a few years back. They were poorly concocted half-measures that failed to deliver the changes necessary to the system.

Where he falls off the rails, though, is when he stands up for the alternative though his assertions that other jurisdictions with pro-business governments haven't scrapped their public auto insurance systems.

Saskatchewan recently came to their senses and turfed the NDP. Rick gave a quick call to Ian Hanna, a high ranking official in the office of Premier Brad Wall. Mr. Hanna explains to Rick that the SaskParty had promised not to privatize Saskatchewan's plethora of socialist-born Crown Corporations because Saskatchewan residents are overwhelmingly in favour of them. Why this comes as a surprise to Rick Bell is beyond me.

Saskatchewan is the cradle of Canadian socialism and their crown corporations are a sacred cow... not for any sound reason, but simply because they have always been there. Talking about privatizing crown corporations in Saskatchewan tends to breed the same kind of overheated rhetoric we see on the national stage whenever the talk of private medicine arises.

Brad Wall and the SaskParty aren't saying they don't want to get rid of the crown corporations (including Saskatchewan Government Insurance), they're saying that doing so would be akin to knocking down all the statues of Tommy Douglas.

In British Columbia, ICBC was brought in under NDP Premier Dave Barrett in 1973. When ICBC was introduced, the private insurace companies lost millions of dollars. Upon the Social Credit Party's return to power, it was expected that ICBC would be dismantled and BC would see a return to private auto insurance.

Fast forward to 1975 and consider this from the point of view of those private insurers. Your collosal financial losses caused by an NDP government legislating you out of business are still fresh in your mind. A new Social Credit government is hoping to return the system to the way it was and allow you back into business. The short-term prospects are good, but it has now been proven that BC is prepared to elect an NDP government... one that would undoubtedly shut you down and repeat those financial losses that you suffered through only a few years ago. Any sane businessperson in that situation would be saying "thanks, but no thanks".

The absolute best piece I have come across on the insurance issue thus far comes courtesy of a recent edition of the Edmonton Journal's Lej Out Loud podcast. Provincial affairs writer Archie McLean interviewed former MLA and soon-to-be MP Brent Rathgeber, a pivotal figure in the insurance debates from a few years back. I was on Brent's side of the debate then and am pleased that his arguments against the reforms were not in vain.

One more brief note on this subject.

I have been taken to task by a few Liberals who say that the Alberta Liberal position is to study public auto insurance, but not necessarily to adopt it. If there's anyone out there who buys that, I've got some oceanfront property in Oyen to sell them.

About a week ago, Kevin Taft and the Liberals changed their messaging to talk about "studying" public auto insurance. Before that, stretching all the way back to the initial debates on the issue back in 2003, the Liberal line was all about "introducing" public auto insurance. A quick search through Alberta Hansard or cached webpages on Google confirms this.

So the new Liberal position on "studying" as opposed to "introducing" public auto insurance indicates one of two things:

1. They've looked more closely at public insurance and are seeing that its not the golden solution they once thought it was.


2. They're lying.

Either way, they shouldn't be taken seriously.


  1. Hmmm, changing positions means people shouldn't be taken seriously.

    We week ago Ed was discounting the RO controversy; now he's going to "look into it".


  2. Not to mention that health care premiums were going to be eliminated according to the throne speech. Now it's "conditional".