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Category "B.C. legislature"

2Apr

Eby’s bumpy, make-it-up-as-you-go-along ride on challenging ICBC file

by admin

VICTORIA — Portrait of a cabinet minister making things up as he goes along:

Feb. 7: David Eby, wearing his cabinet minister for ICBC hat, reacts to news the government-owned auto insurance company missed its financial target for the first full year under the NDP.

ICBC forecast a loss of $684 million. Instead it will lose $1.18 billion, not much less than the $1.296 billon it lost in the financial year shared with the departed B.C. Liberal government.

Not to worry says Eby, still wedded to the belief that ICBC can be put on a break-even footing by 2020.

He’s already consulting with “stakeholders” on a new way to rein in legal and court costs: “The big one we’re concerned about are the cost of expert reports.”

Feb. 11: Eby, now wearing his attorney-general’s hat, signs a cabinet order rewriting the rules for court cases involving motor vehicle accident claims.

“We’re reforming the Supreme Court civil rules to limit the number of experts and expert reports allowed in certain cases,” he tells reporters.

The new limits are expected to deliver “in excess of $400 million” in savings for ICBC, starting that very day, which is when the new rules take effect.

Supreme Court rules are supposed to be vetted by a committee of lawyers and judges, jointly appointed by Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson and the attorney-general.

How involved was the committee in these changes?

Eby cites “discussions” with “a multi-stakeholder group” and “ministry staff.” But he never says whether these changes were approved in advance by the rules committee or to what extent the committee was even consulted.

Later that day the Trial Lawyers Association comes out and says what Eby won’t say, namely that the attorney-general pushed through the rule changes unilaterally.

“He is doing so despite a protest from the independent rules committee,” reports Ian Mulgrew in The Vancouver Sun.

Feb. 27: It has taken more than two weeks, but the attorney-general finally admits the trial lawyers were correct about the rule changes.

“I would like to clarify the process that was followed in relation to these changes,” reads the statement put out by his office.

He goes on to say the rules committee was “engaged” before the changes were announced. And it did offer “feedback,” which Eby claims to “very much appreciated.”

However: “The rules committee did not recommend these changes and was not asked to approve these changes. These changes were a decision made by government.”

Meaning government in the person of David Eby, an attorney-general who gets to preside over a unilateral rewrite of the court rules to suit the minister for ICBC, who is, of course, one and the same.

And lest there be any doubt on the part of the committee or anyone else, “government will continue its work on additional changes to the rules of court,” says Eby.

March 25: Eby announces via press release that he is pulling back on two provisions in the edict on the use of experts.

The new limits won’t apply to cases scheduled to go to court before the end of this calendar year. Litigants who incurred costs for experts before the Feb. 11 change of rules will be permitted to recover those costs.

All in the name of fairness and avoiding “unintended consequences” according to a followup statement from the ministry of the Attorney-General.

As for the financial consequences for ICBC, the ministry estimates the pullback will knock some $20 million off the projected savings of $400 million.

March 29: Another day, another amendment to the regulations regarding ICBC claims. There’s now more leeway for claimants to recover medical, rehabilitation, disability and other costs, including funeral expenses and death benefits.

“The new (60-day) limit gives people a reasonable amount of time to submit their receipts while ensuring ICBC receives the information it needs to accurately assess the severity of claims, provide additional supports to injured people as needed and better forecast future costs,” says the statement from Eby’s ministry.

This just two days before the new claims and litigation regime takes effect.

April 1: “The key for me is we’ve got to make it to April 1,” said Eby back in February, referring to the date he set last year for the big changeover on ICBC claims.

Those changes, limiting payouts for injuries, steering claims to arbitration and capping costs for ones that go to court, were expected to save $1 billion, even without the added limits on use of experts.

Now the big day is here and the trial lawyers mark the occasion by confirming they will challenge the new regime on constitutional grounds.

All of which recalls something else Eby said back when he was announcing the new limits on the use of experts and predicting savings of $400 million or more.

“The reality is that it will depend very much on the reception of the courts and the approach of lawyers to this,” he said.

“Our hope is that the bench and the bar support the intent of these rules, understand why we’re doing this, and that we do realize these savings.”

Against those hopes, there is Eby’s record, including a lack of consultations, arbitrary rule-making, and changes at the last minute.

Not the approach that most cabinet ministers would choose if they needed co-operation from the bar and bench to make the numbers work.

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19Feb

What the 2019 B.C. Budget means to you: Six things to know

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Finance Minister Carole James arrives to deliver the budget speech as she waves to people in the gallery at the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, February 19, 2018.


CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The B.C. NDP government’s second budget focused on tax breaks and benefits for people with children, students and businesses, and investments in clean energy and climate initiatives. Here’s a brief summary of how British Columbians will be affected.


CHILD CARE

The budget didn’t make any large strides toward $10-a-day child care beyond continuing funding for the government’s 2018 child care plan into 2021/2022 and increasing it by $9 million a year. The bigger news was the introduction of a B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit to replace the early childhood tax benefit, which currently provides families with up to $660 a year per child under the age of six.

The new benefit, which begins in October 2020, will provide families with one child up to $1,600 a year, with two children up to $2,600 a year and with three children up to $3,400 a year. Instead of ending at six years of age, the benefit will be paid until the child is 18.



Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus.

Jason Payne /

PNG

EDUCATION

Good news for British Columbians with student loans — no more interest payments. As of Tuesday, all B.C. student loans will stop accumulating interest, saving someone with $11,700 in provincial student loans $2,300 over the 10-year repayment period. This will cost the government $318 million.

The public education system will get a boost, with $2.7 billion set aside over three years to maintain, replace, renovate or expand facilities. There will also be $550 million invested to hire new teachers and special education assistants, and improve classrooms.


RENTAL HOUSING

Community organizations will be provided with funding to operate rent banks to provide short-term loans with little or no interest to low-income tenants who can’t pay their rent because of a financial crisis. It will cost $10 million and be funded through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

The implementation of a B.C.-wide rent bank system for low-income people was one of 23 recommendations delivered late last year from the Rental Housing Task Force struck by the B.C. government.


The Vancouver skyline.

DARRYL DYCK /

THE CANADIAN PRESS


CLIMATE CHANGE

The climate action tax credit will be increased in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Starting July 1, the maximum credit will go up by 14 per cent for adults and children, meaning low- and middle-income families of four will receive up to $400 for this year.

More than $107 million in operating funding will provide incentives for battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (up to $6,000), incentives for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, incentives for home charging stations, as well as other programs.


HEALTH CARE

Pharmacare program will be expanded with an additional $42 million to cover more drugs, including those for diabetes, asthma and hypertension. An additional $30 million will be invested in tackling the drug overdose crisis, bringing the total investment since 2017 to $608 million. Mental health programs focused on prevention and early intervention for children, youth and young adults will be funded to the tune of $74 million.

As promised previously, Medical Services Plan premiums will be fully eliminated on Jan. 1, 2020, saving families up to $1,800 per year.



Snow covers Oppenheimer Park as homeless people sleep in tents .

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG

POVERTY REDUCTION

Income and disability assistance rates will be increased by a $50 a month, a total increase of $150 a month (or $1,800 a year) since the 2017 budget update. Before 2017, the rates had not been increased for a decade. This will cost an extra $44 million over three years.

A homelessness plan will invest $76 million in land acquisition and services to build 200 more modular homes, bringing the total to 2,200 units.

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