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Despite a decline in accident claims to British Columbia’s public vehicle insurance corporation, the B.C. government is ruling out a cut in premiums for the province’s drivers.

The minister in charge of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia said Thursday that it’s not yet clear the corporation’s finances could cover such a benefit.

“It’s too early for the B.C. government and ICBC to determine the extent to which the pandemic might result in savings that might be passed on to B.C. drivers,” David Eby, the attorney general, told a news conference.

He said there are 10 months to go in the fiscal year, and if net income is better than forecasted, benefits such as stabilizing rates or a one-time benefit for customers, or some combination of the two, might be passed on to drivers.

“No decision has been made and no decision will be made until we have clarity on where the corporation’s finances are headed and whether there is any pandemic-related surplus.”

The NDP government has said the public vehicle insurer was headed for a $1-billion deficit without radical change, prompting Mr. Eby to introduce measures that included a cap on payouts for what ICBC terms minor injuries.

The month before the pandemic began, the government initiated the most significant overhaul of ICBC since it was created in 1973, announcing the corporation would shift to a no-fault insurance model to help hold the line on rates, which had increased 43 per cent since 2011.

The change essentially eliminates litigation as well as payments for pain and suffering, while promising lower premiums and better coverage for those injured in a vehicle accident. It is designed to make mandatory auto insurance more affordable while ensuring claimants get the medical treatment and support they require.

On Thursday, however, the opposition Liberals said drivers in B.C. need a break now, and not sometime down the road.

“Mr. Eby and ICBC have slow-walked the entire issue of a rebate during this pandemic,” Jas Johal, the opposition ICBC critic, said in an interview.

Mr. Johal said other public auto insurers have facilitated relief for drivers. However, there has been no relief for B.C.'s drivers even though many are remaining at home, leading to fewer accidents.

According to an ICBC report released Thursday, the corporation reported 46-per-cent fewer accident claims compared to the same time last year, a drop equivalent to about $158-million in savings. However, claim numbers are increasing as more drivers return to the roads.

ICBC also said more than 150,000 customers have cancelled their policy or lowered their rate class, leading to an expected $283-million decline in written insurance premiums compared to more normal expectations.

However, the report also found that the corporation has seen a decline in the value of its investment portfolio because of a downturn in financial markets – an impact that could add up to $1-billion in fiscal 2020-21.

ICBC president and CEO Nicolas Jimenez said Thursday there has been some relief for drivers, notably waiving cancellation and replating fees, which have saved customers about $5-million

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