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Major overhaul at B.C.'s auto insurer could see rates cut by 20%, lawyers cut out of system, province says –



The B.C. government announced plans Thursday to radically overhaul the province’s vehicle insurance system by cutting lawyers out of the process through what it calls an “enhanced care” system.

The province claims that Insurance Corporation of B.C. premiums will drop by as much as 20 per cent — an average of $400 a year — as the insurer moves to introduce a system designed to redirect hundreds of millions of dollars spent in legal costs each year to directly benefit people injured in crashes.

The government plans to introduce legislation to create the new system, which would take effect on May 1, 2021. In the meantime, ICBC is promising that rates will not change this April.

“It’s time for change at ICBC,” Premier John Horgan said in a statement provided at a technical briefing to explain the changes.

“The old government ignored ICBC’s problems, allowing it to become a system that made lawyers rich, while drivers paid too much for insurance.”

Fighting the financial ‘dumpster fire’

The overhaul is the latest in a series of steps taken to counter ICBC’s massive financial woes. Attorney General David Eby declared the corporation a financial “dumpster fire” when the NDP government came into power, blaming the previous B.C. Liberal government for amassing a deficit of $1.3 billion.

Attorney General David Eby says ICBC customers should not need a lawyer to access benefits after they have a car accident. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

From the outset, Eby has targeted rising legal costs as a source of the problem. The government says legal fees amounted to $700 million in the current fiscal year, a figure projected to rise to nearly $1 billion by 2022.

But a court ruling last October blocked the province’s attempts to save money by limiting the number of expert reports allowed in auto insurance lawsuits, forcing the government to look for other ways to cut costs.

Under the new plan, anyone injured in a car crash would be entitled to at least $7.5 million in care and treatment benefits, as opposed to the $300,000 limit currently available for care and recovery.

The new legislation would require ICBC by law to assist every person who makes a claim and to ensure they receive all the care and benefits to which they are entitled.

Wage loss benefits will also rise by 60 per cent and new benefits — such as benefits for full-time students, caregivers and people working in family business — will replace lump-sum payments previously awarded through litigation.

Under the existing system, people who are not at fault for accidents can pursue additional benefits through the courts. The new care and recovery benefits would be available to anyone hurt in a crash, regardless of who was at fault.

‘You shouldn’t need a lawyer’

Officials at the technical briefing insisted the system would not be “no fault,” stressing that premiums for drivers who were found to have caused accidents would still increase.

In a statement provided as part of the briefing, Eby said the so-called “enhanced care” system is designed to directly connect consumers to the benefits they pay for.

ICBC says premiums are expected to drop by as much as 20 per cent as a result of an overhaul of the insurance system. (David Horemans/CBC)

“You shouldn’t need a lawyer to access the benefits you’ve paid for,” Eby said.

“By removing expensive lawyers and legal fees from the system, we are making ICBC work for British Columbians again with more affordable insurance rates and much better coverage, so anyone injured in a crash gets the care they need.”

ICBC officials are expecting significant push-back on the new plan from B.C.’s Trial Lawyers Association.

But they insist that consumers will still have recourse to dispute decisions on their claims, through the Civil Resolution Tribunal, the B.C. ombudsperson and a newly announced ICBC “fairness officer.”

Drivers will also be able to sue anyone who is convicted of a criminal offence in relation to an accident and they will be able to sue car manufacturers and makers of automobile parts.

The new plan will bring B.C. into line with insurance schemes in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The province says it also anticipates that savings to payouts will eventually make ICBC premiums some of the lowest in the country.

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RBC warns house price correction could be deepest in decades | CTV News – CTV News Toronto



A housing correction, which has already led to four consecutive months of price declines in the previously overheated Greater Toronto Area market, could end up becoming “one of the deepest of the past half a century,” a new report from RBC warns.

New data released by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) last week revealed that the average benchmark price for a home in the GTA fell six per cent month-over-month in July to $1,074,754.

Sales were also down a staggering 47 per cent from July, 2021.

In a report published on Aug. 4, RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue said recent data from real estate boards underlines that higher interest rates are beginning to take a “huge toll” on the market.

Hogue said that with further hikes to come, prices will likely continue to slide in the coming months.

That prediction, it should be noted, goes against a report from Royal LePage last month which painted a rosier forecast for sellers in which values would more or less holding for the rest of the year following some declines in the second quarter.

“Our expectations for further hikes by the Bank of Canada—another 75 basis points to go in the overnight rate by the fall— will keep chilling the market in the months ahead,” Hogue said. “We expect the downturn to intensify and spread further as buyers take a wait-and-see approach while ascertaining the impact of higher lending rates. Canada’s least affordable markets Vancouver and Toronto, and their surrounding regions, are most at risk in light of their excessively stretched affordability and outsized price gains during the pandemic.”

The Bank of Canada has hiked the overnight lending rate by 225 basis points since March and has warned that further hikes will be necessary given that inflation remains at a near 40-year high.

In his report, Hogue pointed out that the housing correction “now runs far and wide across Canada” but he said that it is particularly pronounced in the costlier markets of Toronto and Vancouver.

In fact, Hogue said that housing resale activity in Toronto is at its slowest pace in 13 years, outside of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stockpile of available homes is also up 58 per cent from a year ago, he noted.

“With more options to choose from and higher interest rates shrinking their purchasing budgets, buyers are able to extract meaningful price concessions from sellers,” he said, pointing out that the average price of a home in the GTA is down 13 per cent from March. “We expect buyers to remain on the defensive in the months ahead as they deal with rising interest rates and poor affordability.”

While Hogue did say that condos in the City of Toronto are likely to remain “relatively more resilient” he said that prices elsewhere will continue to fall for the time being, especially in the 905 belt “where property values soared during the pandemic.”

The July data from TRREB suggested that the average price of a home in the GTA was still up one per cent from July, 2021.

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Commuters face GO transit cancellations, possible strike – CityNews



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Canada Revenue Agency plans email blitz to get Canadians to cash outstanding cheques worth $1.4-billion – The Globe and Mail



The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is planning a massive e-mail notification campaign to reach Canadians across the country who have uncashed cheques worth a net $1.4-billion.

The e-mail notifications will target recipients of the Canada child benefit and related provincial and territorial programs, as well as recipients of the GST/HST credits and the Alberta Energy Tax Refund.

The CRA said it plans to send approximately 25,000 e-mails in August, another 25,000 in November and a further 25,000 e-mails by May, 2023.

However, even without receiving an e-mail notification, the agency said a taxpayer can check if they have a cheque by logging into My Account, a secure portal on its website to check if they have an uncashed cheque over a period of six months. It added that representatives can also view uncashed cheques of their clients.

Each year, the CRA said it issues millions of payments to Canadian taxpayers in the form of refund benefits. These payments are issued by either direct deposit or by cheque.

“Over time, payments can remain uncashed for various reasons, such as the taxpayer misplacing the cheque or even a change of address which did not allow for delivery,” the agency said in a statement.

The CRA said since the e-mail notification initiative was first launched in February, 2020, about two million uncashed cheques valued at $802-million were redeemed by May 31, 2022.

The average amount per uncashed cheque is $158 with some of them dating as far back as 1998, the agency said.

As of May, 2022, there were an estimated 8.9 million uncashed cheques with the CRA. In May, 2019, about five million Canadians had an estimated 7.6 million uncashed cheques.

“As government cheques never expire or stale date, the CRA cannot void the original cheque and re-issue a new one unless requested by the taxpayer,” the statement read. “These upcoming e-notifications are to encourage taxpayers to cash any cheques they have in their possession.”

The agency said taxpayers can register for the direct deposit option on its website to receive payments directly into their bank accounts.

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