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B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said the party would open the vehicle insurance market to competition if it wins the Oct. 24 provincial election.The Canadian Press

The British Columbia Liberals are promising lower vehicle insurance rates by ending the monopoly that a Crown-owned corporation has on the market.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said the party would open the vehicle insurance market to competition if it wins the Oct. 24 provincial election, resulting in cheaper rates, especially for young drivers.

Drivers should have the option of choosing where to buy insurance, instead of being forced to deal with the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“It’s time to offer cheaper rates, and the way to get cheaper rates is to introduce competition for all forms of auto insurance in B.C.,” said Mr. Wilkinson.

But the New Democrats said the Liberal pledge would reverse plans to implement cost-cutting reforms at ICBC and wipe out a proposed 20-per-cent rate cut due in the spring.

The New Democrats said the former Liberal government left ICBC deeply in debt and a restructuring plan is also under way to limit legal costs and improve care for accident victims.

“We can’t go backwards,” said New Democrat candidate David Eby, who was the cabinet minister responsible for ICBC in the NDP government.

“We can’t trust the same government that turned ICBC from a profitable corporation that delivered low insurance rates to British Columbians into a mess that we had to clean up.”

The NDP has promised to give drivers a premium rebate from any surpluses at ICBC during the COVID-19 pandemic because of a drop in the number of accidents.

Mr. Wilkinson said drivers should have been given their money back months ago and the New Democrats are using the potential rebate as an election promise.

Over the past three years, he said, insurance rates under the New Democrats increased 48 per cent for an average of $620 per driver.

Mr. Wilkinson said the Liberals would allow drivers to shop for vehicle insurance rates and coverage that suits them. Drivers would still have the option of coverage provided by ICBC, but under the Liberals, they would have a choice, he said.

“For 46 years, we’ve put up with state control of how we buy auto insurance,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “When it comes to vehicle damage insurance, the marketplace should be open to all forms of insurance. There’s no need to be forced to go to ICBC to get your front bumper replaced.”

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said ICBC has been pulled in different directions over the years by the Liberals and New Democrats.

“And the people of B.C. have to suffer the consequences of bad governance over and over again,” she told a news conference. “This is why I’m making a case to all British Columbians that a minority government will serve you best.”