Blog

Manitoba Basic Rates to Rise 1.8 Per Cent--ICBC's Increase Likely Much Higher.

The Manitoba regulator just approved a 1.8% rate increase for complusory auto insurance. Why are the Basic rate increases in Saskatchewan and Manitoba much less than for ICBC? 

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B.C. Hydro's Q2 Results: Volume of Power Sold Falls While Debt Climbs

My comments on the results and the lack of discussion on accounting changes or future rate increases.

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Government Requires Money-Losing ICBC to Fund More Traffic Enforcement

The government has directed ICBC to fund more traffic enforcement, but its more of a restoration. And why is the government not funding more police traffic enforcement instead of asking over-burdened policyholders to do it?

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Government Q2 Forecast Understates Cash Surplus

The inclusion of the net income of BC Hydro and the net loss of ICBC complicates the forecast of the surplus.

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ICBC's Q2 Results: More Red Ink and Even Less Transparency

On Friday the government released ICBC's second quarter excuse for a quarterly report, and a unsubstantiated forecast of a $890 million loss for the current fiscal year. Occasional Paper 64 reviews the numbers and suggests that the year-end forecast may be optomistic.

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Ride-Share Auto Insurance Options

This paper outlines the insurance plans in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and the blanket insurance option required by Uber and Lyft.

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Ontario Review Promises Greater Transparency and Accountability.

Commentary on certain aspects of the Ontario government's plans regarding electricity pricing and auto insurance regulation.

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New Fraser Institute Paper on ICBC.

A commentary on a paper released by the Fraser Institute on certain aspects of the finances of ICBC.

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Ontario Seeks to Improve Financial Transparency and Accountability.

A committee of the Ontario legislature is holding hearings into how the previous Liberal government attempted to ignore the accounting rules to make the government books appear than was the case. What lessons might the B.C. government learn from this review?

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Terminology and Perceptions of ICBC.

Driver-based penalties are increasing by 20% today, with another 20% increase planned for 2019. ICBC calls the penalty a premium, which confuses this penalty with the vehicle premium. Confusion is part of the reason for the low public perception of our auto insurer.

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Unknown Driver Fee a Symptom of Larger Problem.

Is the new penalty and protection fee an abuse of monopoly power and an attempt to achieve risk pricing perfection?

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Rate-Regulated Accounting at B.C. Hydro: A Primer.

The attached paper provides background for two reports on deferral accounts and B.C. Hydro's finances that are expected to be released shortly. The government has promised to fix the finances at our public utilitity, but the details on how this will be accomplished is unclear.

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Senior Officials Review of BC Hydro Rate Options: Will New or Old Thinking Prevail?

This paper explores the options available to the senior official committee appointed to develop recommendations for a new rates plan for B.C. Hydro. Will the committee adopt the new approach of restoring integrity to financial management, or continue with the old practice of abusing the deferral accounts?

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Ontario Government Agrees that Hydro Deferral Accounting Inappropriate. September 21, 2018.

The Ontario government has moved to clean-up certain accounting practices, including the financing of the "Fiar Hydro" deferrals. The accounting adjustment of the electricity deferrals increased 2018/19 expenditures by $2,4 billion.

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Public Inquiry Begins into Newfoundland's Muskrat Falls Project. September 16, 2018.

A public inquiry is now underway designed to examin the approval process for the $12.7 billion hydroelectric dam. As Konrad Yakabuski writes: "Whether it involves provincially-owned hydroelectric behemoths in British Columbia, Manitoba or Quebec, or the Crown-owned nuclear-dominated Ontario Power Generation, politically-driven energy policies across Canada have saddled ratepayers and taxpayers with billions of dollars in extra debt."https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/muskrat-falls-inquiry-wont-save-newfoundlanders-from-a-127-billion-sinkhole/article37052291/https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-inquiry-into-muskrat-falls-megaproject-boondoggle-to-begin-in-2/

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BC Hydro Five-Year Statistics:2012/13 to 2017/18. September 13, 2018.

Occasional Paper 61 reviews certain aspects of BC Hydro's operations and finances for the last five yers.

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Some Implications of Restoring the BCUC's Independence. September 10, 2018.

This commentary paper explores in more detail some of the issues involved in fixing the accounting policies at B.C. Hydro.

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NDP Perpetuates Liberal Practices Regarding ICBC: Keeps Watchdog Confined. September 4, 2018.

This paper discusses the fact that the NDP government is using cabinet orders to control ICBC's finances and keep the B.C. Utilities Commission confined. These were the tactics used by the previous government to avoid public oversight.

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Governement Begins Restoring Financial Integrity: What's Next for B.C. Hydro's Books? August 31, 2018

This paper provides an overview of why the government set aside $950 million for the 2017/18 fiscal year to begin to fix the financial troubles at B.C. Hydro. the restoration of proper accounting standards at the public power utility presents certain financial problems for the government.

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ICBC Suffers Worst Ever Financial Year. August 28, 2018.

The just released 2017/18 annual report shows a combined Basic and Optional operating loss of $1.3 billion, and the capital reserves are now dangerously below the safety margins. Occasional Paper No. 60 reviews some of the key incicators.

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Media Commentary on New Basic Rate Design. August 28, 2018.

Some of the key media reporting and comments on the changes to the Basic rate design announced on August 9, 2018.

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Observations Respecting ICBC's New Premium Model. August 16, 2018.

The new Basic premium model targets younger drivers, and at-fault drivers to give a financial benefit to older drivers. More comments are included in Occasional Paper No. 59.

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Delayed Rate Increase to Cost ICBC up to $150 million. August 12, 2018.

The government's decision to postpone a general rate increase until April 2019 will reduce ICBC's already low capital reserve by perhaps $150 million in 2018/19.

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BCUC Approves BC Hydro's $1.2 Billion Dam Purchase

A short commentary on the regulator's 18 July 2018 approval of the purchase of Teck's interest in the Waneta Dam.

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Positive 2017/18 Financial Results from Public Auto Insurers Contrasts With ICBC Forecast. July 18, 2018.

This paper reviews the positive 2017/18 annual reports of the public auto insurers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba for both the compulsory Basic and the optional programs. This contrasts with ICBC's forecasted combined loss of $1.4 billion.

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Ontario Government Pressures Hydro One Board and CEO to Resign

Expensive electricity was a major issue in the recent Ontario election. The new government succeeded in forcing the board and CEO Mayo Schmidt to resign, but lower prices have only been possible by transferring cost to taxpayers and future generations; https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-entire-ontario-hydro-one-board-to-resign-ceo-to-step-down/ and https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-doug-ford-kneecaps-hydro-one/ and https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/doug-ford-hydro-one-1.4743097 and https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-doug-ford-used-legislative-threat-to-oust-hydro-one-ceo-board/

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Why Does the Government Condone Poor Public Accountability at ICBC? June 25, 2018.

This paper examins ICBC's main accountability reports in light of the accountability model adopted by government in the early 2000's. The level of public accountability is poor, and the government should require ICBC to make significant improvements.

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Hon. Mungall Says BC Hydro's Finances in Good Shape--Really?

A comment on minister Mungall's statement and the staff review of BC Hydro's costs.

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Commentary on Results of Opinion Survey on ICBC Rates. May 21, 2018.

This paper reviews the key results of the government's public opinion survey on potential changes to ICBC's driver penalties and the design of Basic rates.

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Commentary: Populist Promises and the Cost of Electrictiy. May 18, 2018

The three main politic parties in Ontario are promising to reduce electricity prices, but are being vague as to what this will cost. It's time for the voters to become educated consumers. 

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Public Pension Plan Solvency: Why Is BC Hydro an Outlier?

A comment in response to Vaughn Palmer's article about the BC Investment Management Corporation and the well-funded public pension plans.

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Commentary on Matthew McClearn Article on Hydro Accounting in Ontario. April 22, 2018.

McClearn's article in the Globe and Mail provides a useful summary of many of the issues involved in the accounting dispute between the ontario auditor general and the government. Similar issues exist in British Columbia.

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Should the Government Return the $1.2 Billion Appropriated from ICBC Poilcyholders? April 20, 2018.

Between 2010 and 2015 the provincial government appropriated almost $1.2 billion of Optional policyholders' capital. Now -- with the province's finances healthy and the ICBC capital reserves almost eliminated -- would seem an appropriat time to return the funds. Occasional Paper No. 56 estimates the Basic and Optional capital shortfalls to 2021/22.

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Fraser Institute Report on ICBC's Finances: Late and Confusing. April 11, 2018.

My comments on the Fraser Institute's report "The Decline and Fall of ICBC."

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Subsidizing Seniors: ICBC and BC Ferries. April 9, 2018.

The recent announcement of an increase in the fare subsidy for seniors on the BC Ferries prompted me to review an earlier estimate on the cost of the 25% seniors' subsidy at ICBC's Basic insurance. If the government funded the sudsidy it would relieve some of the pressure on Basic rates.

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Inappropriate Regulatory Accounting: Ontario and BC Discussion of Auditors' Opposition. March 30, 2018

This 'Commentary' paper reviews the Ontario and BC public accounts committee discussion of the oppositin by the two auditors general of the application of reguatory accounting, and the impact to the governments' financial statements.

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ICBC Rate Re-Design; Evidence or Populism?

Occasional Paper No. 54 looks at the current design for pricing risk and some of the changes being suggested in the current public consultation.

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BC Utilities Commission Independence: Is the Government Listening? March 16, 2018.

Auditor General Carol Bellringer issued a report, http://www.bcauditor.com/sites/default/files/publications/reports/FINAL_BCUC.pdf, that reminds the government that five key recommendations of the 2014 independent task force remain outstanding. In August Ms. Bellringer qualified the government's 2016/17 financial statements, in part because BC Hydro's deferral accounts were not overseen by an independent regulator. The Canadian Press provided a limited summary (http://vancouversun.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/b-c-auditor-offers-advice-on-utilities-commission-after-previous-studies/wcm/c65203d2-1811-4418-ab5b-f55f3002d5d7. DeSmog Canada's report was more comprehensive; https://www.desmog.ca/2018/03/15/auditor-general-nudges-b-c-amend-act-exempted-site-c-dam-independent-review

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Commentary on ICBC Rate Design Proposals. March 8, 2018.

My comments on certain aspects for the latest proposals to make Basic insurance rates "fairer." It seems that most of the proposals will result in less generous discounts and greter revenue for ICBC.

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ICBC's Three-Year Forecast Raises Many Questions. February 27, 2018.

ICBC's 2017/18 to 2020/21 financial forecast shows the combined capital reserve falling to dangerously low levels. However many inconsistencies make the forecast suspect. Also included is Acting CEO Nicolas Jimenez's email of March 15th, my reply of March 19th and his reply of March 28th.

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Accounting Treatment of ICBC's Net Loss Complicates Provincial Budget. February 17, 2018.

The national public sector accounting rules require that ICBC's net income or loss be counted in the government's revenue. The increase in the net loss reduces revenue, but there is no change in the actual cash being transferred (which is nil). This accounting anomoly requires further review.

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Comment: Changes Coming to ICBC's Injury Model. February 8, 2018.

On 6 February 2018, minister responsible David Eby announced major changes to injury claims process and coverage, with expanded no-fault accident benefits and monetary limits, and a $5,500 cap on pain and suffering claims for "minor" injuries. The government expects that these changes will reduce annual claims costs by approximately $1.0 billion.

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The 'Transaction' Cost of the Tort Model. February 5, 2018.

This paper suggests that injury claimants received only 57% of the $2.0 billion paid by ICBC in 2015 for no-fault accident benefits and injury claims. The balance was absorbed in 'transaction' costs.

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New South Wales Adopts Hybrid No-Fault Scheme for Auto Injury Claims. January 30, 2018.

This paper discusses the auto injury claim models in the states of New South Wales and Victoria, and in New Zealand, with possible lessons for BC.

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Politics, Not Economics, Drives Electricity Pricies in Ontario and BC. January 20, 2018

Brady Yauch of the Consumer Policy Institute discribes how electricity pricing in Ontario is now determined by politics rather than economics. BC Hydro rates have been set by political decisions since 2012 when the governemt ordered the regulator to approve lower than required rates. https://cpi.probeinternational.org/2017/11/09/its-the-end-of-energy-regulation-in-ontario-as-we-know-it/

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Auditor General Carol Bellringer Moves to Clean Up BC Hydro's Books. January 10, 2018.

BC Auditor General Carol Bellringer is preparing to become BC Hydro's external auditor, which will put more pressure on the government to allow BC Hydro to conform to national public sector accounting standards. See Les Leyne http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/columnists/les-leyne-watching-b-c-hydro-is-a-growth-industry-1.23137605 and Vaughn Palmer http://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-bellringer-anxious-to-plug-into-b-c-hydros-accounts

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ICBC's Second Quarter Report: More Bad News and Less Information. December 29. 2017.

ICBC recently posted its second quarter 'Statement of Operations,' which is highly deficient as a quarterly report from such an important Crown corporation. Occasiona Paer No. 50 compares the results with Saskatchewan's compulsory insurance program in an attempt to understand the reasons for the continuing losses.

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ICBC's Capital Reserve Minimums Are Too High. December 21, 2017.

The government should lower the minimum capital targets to reduce the current and forecasted capital deficiency, Given the nature of the Basic monopoly, and the near monopoly enjoyed by the Optional program, the targets should be lower, thereby reducing the pressure on future rates.

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Alberta Caps Auto Insurance Increase at 5 Percent. December 19, 2017.

The Alberta government has limited the 2017/18 increase in the private vehicle insurance rates to 5%. It stated that the previously allowed 10% maximum increase was not inline with its affordability priority. Background and implications are provided. 

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ICBC's Financial Crisis: How Did It Happen? December 17, 2017.

This paper provides a high-level review of how ICBC's costs out-stripped revenues from 2012 to 2016/17, and focusses in bodily injury claims costs.

The paper suggests that capping pain and suffering claims for minor soft tissue injury claims will not generate sufficient savings to treturn ICBC's finances and capital reerves to a satidfactory condition. 

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Rate Increases for Basic Auto Insurance in BC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. December 8, 2017.

The Manitoba regulator recently approved a 2.6% increase in Basic vehicle rates for the coming year. This paper looks at how BC rate increases compare to the publicly-owned no-fault systems in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

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Fixing ICBC's Finances: Four Changes the Government Should Make. December 4, 2017.

The government is planning changes to ICBC's insurance model to reduce costs. Occasional Paper No. 47 discusses areas where the government should re-imburse ICBC policyholders for current programs or policies that benefit the taxpayer.

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Government Considering Capping Certain Pain and Suffering Claims. December 3, 2017.

On 30 November 2017, Rob Shaw of the Vancouver Sun reported that the government is actively considering a cap on claims for pain and suffering awards for minor soft tissue injuries; http://vancouversun.com/news/politics/government-considers-cap-on-minor-injury-claims-to-fix-icbc-finances The cap would be a key part of a strategy to prevent the massive losses forecast for the compulsory Basic insurance program as discussed in http://www.bcpolicyperspectives.com/media/attachments/view/doc/commentary_icbc_s_28_nov_2017_basic_forecast_29_nov_2017/pdf

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New ICBC Forecast Confirms Financial Crisis is Worsening. November 29, 2017.

A new ICBC forecast of the Basic program shows major rate hikes are required to keep the capital reserve from being fully depleted within four years.

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Have the NDP Succumbed to the Siren's Call of Deferral Accounting? November 27, 2017.

The current government's plan to freeze BC Hydro rates is the latest example of how governments have succumbed to the alure of short-term gain by manipulating BC Hydro's finances. Occasional Paper No. 46 traces the key events since 2011. 

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Submission to the BCUC Opposing the BC Hydro Rate Freeze. November 20, 2017

Can the BCUC approve BC Hydro's request to withdraw the 3% rate increase for 1 April 2018? I argue that it should not approve the request; includes final submission of 11 January 2018. 

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Further Observations on the Hydro Rate Freeze. November 12, 2017.

As a follow-up to Occasional Paper No. 45, this paper looks more deeply at the question of affordability in the pricing of BC Hydro's electricity.

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Government Freezes BC Hydro Rates for 2018. November 9, 2017.

This paper discusses some aspects of the new plan to freeze BC Hydro rates for 2018.

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BC Auditor General Finds BC Hydro's 'Prescribed' Accounting Unacceptable. October 26, 2017.

The Auditor General has added a new reason to qualify her opinion of the government's 2016/17 financial statements; the fact that the 'prescribed' accounting standards do not conform to the public sector accounting standards. Read more in Occasional Paper No. 44.

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Will NDP End BC Hydro's 'Wild West' Accounting--The Tyee October 24 and 25, 2017.

The Tyee published my piece which describes the Ontario Auditor General's special report on a government scheme to subsidize electricity rates, and how electricity rates are subsidized in British Columbia; https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2017/10/24/Will-NDPEnd-BC-Hydro-Wild-West-Accounting/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=241017 also Andrew MacLeod's comments from Carole James https://thetyee.ca/News/2017/10/25/Fixing-BC-Hydro-Accounting/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=251017

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What Would Ontario's Auditor General Make Of BC Hydro's 'Prescribed' Accounting Standard? October 22, 2017.

In a special report the Ontario Auditor General severely criticised that government's new regulatory deferal scheme; what would she make of the accounting practiced at BC Hydro to surpress the true cost of electricity?

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Email to Auditor General Bellringer re BC Hydro Accounting, December 2, 2016.

This email informs Auditor General Bellringer of recent developments respecting BC Hydro's accounting for future unbilled and uncollected revenue.

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Ontario Auditor General Says Deferring Hydro Rate Subsidy Contrary to Accounting Principles. October 18. 2017.

The use of deferral accounting allows debt to be transformed into and asset, a practice that the BC Lberal government abused with respect to BC Hydro's books. There are there lessons for the new NDP government in the Ontario Auditor General's recent report; http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/specialreports/specialreports/FairHydroPlan_en.pdf See media reaction; http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/reevely-hiding-billions-in-hydro-debt-unacceptable-ontarios-auditor-general-says and http://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/auditor-general-set-to-report-on-ontarios-25-per-cent-hydro-bill-cuts.

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ICBC's Capital Forecast: Finance Minister James Concerned. October 11, 2017.

ICBC does not publish multi-year financial forecasts, but Occasional paper No. 42 procides a scenario of the capital deletion to 31 march 2020. Little wonder that finance minister James is concerned.

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Capital Destuction at ICBC Continues September 29, 2017.

ICBC's forecast for 2017/18 shows a continuation in th loss of capital. Occasional Paer No. 41 traces the loss by program from 2010 to 2017/18, and confirms the structural deficit of approximately $400 million per year in the Basic program.

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Taxpayers Federation Wrong; BC Auto Rates Fourth Lowest, Not Second Highest. September 8, 2017.

Comparing auto insurance prices across provincial jurisdictions is a difficlut task. Occasional Paper No.40 shows that the methodology used by Mike Milke in a recent Canadian Taxpayer Federation report is flawed.

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Devlin Report on Insurance Regimes in Canada, July 2017. September 8, 2017.

Dr. Rose Devlin's 25 July 2017 report "A Comparison of Automoble Regimes in Canada" is posted with the permission of the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia.

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Government Hikes Basic Rates 6.4% and Optional 9.6%; Multi-Year Plan to Restore ICBC's Finances. September 5, 2017.

Attorney General David Eby unveiled the 2017 Basic and Optional rate increases, and outlined a multi-year plan to restore ICBC's finances, with regular reports on progress; http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/attorney-general-to-announce-changes-to-insurance-corp-of-b-c and http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/icbc-rate-increases-eby-1.4275970 and http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/icbc-rates-to-rise-6-4-per-cent-typical-motorist-to-pay-57-more-1.22443523

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Observations on ICBC's 2016/17 Annual Report. September 1, 2017.

The recently released 2016/17 annual report shows that the financial condition at the public insurer is going from bad to worse, as outlined in Occasional Paper No. 39.

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Further Questions About the Ernst Young Report on ICBC. August 20, 2017.

A more detailed review of the Ernst Young report raises serious concerns about the costing methodology, and the savings that might be achieved by capping pain and suffering awards on minor injury claims. The are discussed in Occasional Paper No.38. 

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Ernst Young Options to Increase Auto Insurance Affordability. August 6, 2017.

This paper reviews the Ernst Young report's options to increase the affordability of auto insurance. It questions some of the proposed cost savings and recoomends the adoption of Saskatchewan's dual Basic model.

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Comments on the Financial Aspects of the Ernst Young Report. July 31, 2017.

My comments on the financail aspects of the July 10, 2017 Ernst Young report on ICBC are included in Occasional Paper N0. 36, distributed on July 30, 2017.

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The Ernst Young Report on ICBC and Early Reaction. July 25, 2017.

After being leaked to Postmedia, the government released the July 1o, 2017 Ernst Young report on ICBC; http://www.icbc.com/about-icbc/company-info/Documents/Affordable-and-Effective-AutoInsurance-Report.pdf CKNW interviews with Minister Eby, Liberal MLA Wilkinson and Richard McCandless;http://globalnews.ca/news/3620885/icbc-considering-raising-car-insurance-premiums-by-30-per-cent/ and Vaughn Palmer's comments  http://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-eby-considers-safer-technology-versus-hiking-icbc-rates. Chuck Byrne's (Insurance Brokers Association) comments; http://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/ca/news/auto/report-is-great-opportunity-for-icbc-to-bring-in-reforms-74363.aspx

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Geenhouse Gas Emission Report Needs Context. July 12, 2017.

This report provides some context about the absolute change in GHG emissions from 2005 to 2015; suggesting that a more in-depth review is required.

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Impact of Massive Hydroelectric Infrastructure Projects on Rates. July 5, 2017.

Occasional paper No. 34 reviews the likely impact of three major hydroelectric infrastructure projects on electricity rates.

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Options for Financing Site C. June 24, 2017

What impact will the Site C project, whether it proceeds or is cancelled, have on BC Hydro's operating budget, and what are the options to pay for it? Occasional Paper No. 33 provides a high-level look at these questions.

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Final Submission on BC Hydro's F17 to F19 Rate Request. June 8, 2017.

Given the pending change in government, I recommended that the BC Utilities Commission not approve any of the discreationary items in BC Hydro's F17 to F19 rate request.

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Manitoba Hydro Planning a Five-Year 46% Rate Increase -- Lessons for BC? June 2, 2017.

In May, Manitoba Hydro requested a rate increase of 7.9% for 2017 and 2018, with an indication of the same increase for the following three years. The publicly owned power utility is facing a major deterioration inits finances due to major capital projects and a flat demand. What lessons may a new government in BC learn from the Manitoba experience?

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Ontario Electricity Rate Suppression Plan. May 27, 2017.

This paper reviews the recent report of the Ontario Financial Accountability Office on that government's plan to use a deferral account to surpress electricity rates. A comparison to the revenue deferral practiced by BC Hydro is also provided.

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Fact Check - Bill Bennett Responds to My Tyee Article. May 4, 2017.

A Fact Check on Hon. Bill Bennett's comments on the Jon McComd (CKNW) show, commenting on rate increases and BC Hydro's debt.

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New Review of Auto Insurance System in Ontario. April 23, 2017.

A report by David Marshall recommends an over-haul of the Ontario system to focus on the management of injury claims to improve the efficieny and effectiveness of the auto insurance system. Useful, but the cross Canada premium comparisons are questionable. http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/autoinsurance/fair-benefits.pdf and https://news.ontario.ca/mof/en/2017/04/ontario-releases-report-on-auto-insurance.html

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Fact Check - Government Admits Major Rate Increases Coming for BC Hydro and ICBC. April 20, 2017.

On April 19th finance minister de Jong stated that the coming four-year rate increase requirement for BC Hydro is 28%, and close to 70% for ICBC's Basic program. The government's rate suppression policy has postponed the financial reckoning.

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New Study Recommends Suspension of Site C. April 19, 2017.

On April 19, 2017, the UBC Program on Water Governance released a comphrensive report on the economics of the Site C dam project;http://watergovernance.ca/projects/sitec/

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