Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rally to urge review of MPI dealings, policies

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A local motorcycle and automobile enthusiast is organizing a rally at the Manitoba legislature to ask the future government of Manitoba to launch a complete review of all Manitoba Public Insurance financial dealings and executive policies.

The Sept. 15 rally is being organized by Robyn Gray, the retired former owner of a Harley-Davidson dealership and chairman of the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Show, held every spring in conjunction with Piston Ring's World of Wheels Car Show.

Gray feels that many Manitoba motorists have grown weary of MPI and wants the new government, regardless of which party is elected, to rethink how MPI is governed. Ultimately, he hopes the agency will be forced to become more accountable, fully transparent and offer a fairer means of appeal when customers don't agree with decisions about claims.

"I strongly believe in government-run insurance and feel that it should be able to save us money," Gray said.

"But when they found that $330 million under the carpet and were forced to return it to their customers, that should have been a huge red flag to all Manitoba motorists that something is definitely wrong with the manner in which they currently conduct business."

As well as overcharging for insurance on cars and trucks, Gray said there have been a large number of complaints about the high cost of motorcycle insurance, the low hourly rates MPI pays local jobbers to repair damaged vehicles, and the manner in which MPI investigates claims of vehicle theft and vandalism.

'If you're in the unfortunate situation where your vehicle is stolen or vandalized, you can expect MPI investigators to essentially treat you like a guilty person until proven innocent," he said.

"Unless there's already a suspect, they routinely point the finger at the person making the claim, and the burden is on that person to prove otherwise. In my opinion, it borders on infringement of the Charter of Rights."

Gray is also hoping that motorcycle enthusiasts, -- both current riders and those who would ride except for high insurance costs -- will attend the rally and inspire the government to review MPI rates.

"When the conversation turns to motorcycles, the number-one complaint, even from people who don't ride, is the huge amount of money people have to shell out to simply insure a motorcycle. In many cases, the cost of insuring a new motorcycle is higher that the loan payments on a new bike.

"By attending this rally, you will be putting the government on notice that you're not happy with the current rates and it's time to seriously rethink the entire process."

Gray is inviting leaders of the three major parties to attend the rally, adding that he thinks MPI issues are an important factor in the upcoming election.

"There is a huge number of people out there unhappy with an agency that our provincial government oversees," he said. "A candidate who promises to review MPI's financial dealings and executive policies will surely weigh strongly on the minds of many voters at the polls."

Although Gray is known for his work in the local motorcycle community, he's also a long-time automobile enthusiast and is encouraging all Manitoba motorists to attend the rally. If enough people show up, the government will have no choice but to place MPI under a microscope, he said.

"It's as though MPI answers to no one, and they can do whatever they want without consequences. "They are supposed to be serving the people of Manitoba, and I believe they are failing miserably.

"I hope that this rally will show the future government that a great number of Manitobans are not pleased with the current situation and that it's time for an audit of their policies. Hopefully, following that audit, some much-needed changes will occur."

The rally will take place at the legislature, at 6 p.m. on Sept. 15. A rain date has also been scheduled for Sept. 22.

For more information, email Robyn Gray at changempi@hotmail.com, or comment on Facebook at: Change Autopac/MPI.

willy@freepress.mb.ca

Flashback fever

It's hard to imagine that one of the greatest summers in recent memory is now winding down. But thanks to the Fabulous 50's Ford Club of Manitoba, local auto buffs have at least one more amazing weekend to enjoy the fantastic classic and special-interest vehicles our province has to offer.

The car club's 17th annual "Flashback Weekend" kicks off tonight with a fundraising social at the Transcona Country Club. Tomorrow, there will be a cruise to the Half Moon Drive-Inn near Lockport. On Sunday, the largest free car show of the season will take place at the Garden City Shopping Centre, (see today's Cruising Calendar for full details on the entire weekend's events.)

Last year, a huge crowd turned up to see more than 1,250 classic and special-interest vehicles at the Sunday show. Vehicle-owners from across Manitoba and from as far away as Thunder Bay, Regina and even the U.S. journeyed to partake in the festivities.

More than $12,000 was raised in support of the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation through last year's silent auction and 50/50 draws held throughout the summer. Club member and Vickar Chevrolet employee Geno Hnatiuk also canvassed local auto dealers and single-handedly raised $5,100 for the cause. Rumour has it Big Geno has been knocking on even more doors this year.

If you only attend one car show this year, make sure this is the one. See you there.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 9, 2011 F8

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