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Insurance rates are going up for drivers in British Columbia and the province’s attorney general says the previous government is to blame.

welcomia/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Insurance rates are going up for drivers in British Columbia and the province's attorney general says the previous government is to blame.

David Eby said the Insurance Corporation of B.C. is in crisis, with financial losses totalling more than $500-million last year.

The insurance provider is asking the provincial utilities commission to hike basic rates by 6.4 per cent this year to combat the losses.

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Optional rates will also jump and Eby said Tuesday that the average driver can expect an annual blended increase of eight per cent or $130 per year.

All vehicle owners in B.C. are required to purchase basic coverage through ICBC, but they can look to private insurers for optional extra coverage.

The higher rates follow a recent report from Ernst & Young that said the Crown corporation's finances were in serious trouble and rates would need to increase 30 per cent by 2019 to cover costs.

Eby said the public auto insurer's problems are due in part to the previous Liberal administration's "cavalier and reckless" attitude toward the Crown corporation's finances.

"The former government knew years ago that issues at ICBC were spiralling rapidly out of control, yet they completely failed to look out for drivers and the road users of our province. We are paying for those short-sighted decisions today," he said.

But Andrew Wilkinson, the Liberal's attorney general critic, said his party took steps to keep increases affordable and stable for families when ICBC's claims surged, totalling $2.4-billion in payouts in 2015.

"Instead of offering new ideas on how to control the cost issue, Eby is attempting to lay blame for the challenges ICBC is currently facing rather than provide his own plan," Wilkinson said.

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Fixing the public auto insurer will be an ongoing project for "the next several years," Eby said.

First steps will include an audit of ICBC's operations and a number of initiatives aimed at reducing collisions, including activating red-light cameras 24 hours a day and a public awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of distracted driving.

"The way we identified these specific initiatives was to ensure we could, as quickly as possible, begin bending those cost curves by making B.C. roads safer, but also by identifying opportunities for savings within ICBC to get those costs down and, as a result, keep rates affordable for British Columbians," Eby said.

Eby wouldn't guarantee that British Columbians won't see rate hikes again next year, but promised that he has asked ICBC to look for ways of making the costs more fair.

"It makes absolutely no sense to me that someone with a spotless driving record should be paying the same or a similar insurance rate as someone with a careless driving conviction. We need to make sure that bad drivers pay more and good drivers pay less," he said.

Jacquie McKay's security camera captured this footage from her home in Bridge Lake, B.C. looking to the east-southeast. On Monday night the RCMP fielded dozens of calls from residents in Alberta and B.C. who made reports including a bright light in the sky and a sonic boom.
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