Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MPI's folly

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Manitoba Public Insurance is a government monopoly with the job of insuring motor vehicles, but it frequently behaves like it wants to be a social agency.

The Crown corporation is charging ahead with its goal of using ratepayers' money to make the province's roads safer for motorists on the grounds it will reduce accidents and injuries, reducing rates in the process.

MPI says it will provide evidence of the connection between safer roads and fewer accidents at its next rate application before the Public Utilities Board this fall.

Actually, the insurer can save its breath. Of course safer roads reduce insurance costs. No one denies that. Safer roads will also lower costs of emergency services and the health-care system and reduce traffic delays that cost motorists and business millions of dollars. It will also save families from grief, funerals, automobile repair bills and so on.

The argument is so persuasive, in fact, that perhaps MPI should consider funding research into eye disease, dementia and any ailment that could impair a driver's ability.

The real question, however, is who should pay for safer roads and how?

MPI says the volume and value of insurance claims will decline under its plan, but the idea is fraught with perils and the facts are prone to abuse and manipulation.

Under Autopac's model, it will be easier for the province and city to reduce their responsibilities for infrastructure, which should be funded by income taxes and levies on property and gas.

If the Public Utilities Board approves MPI's plan, it will create a new cookie jar for the government to pluck. Over time, it will become difficult to determine an authentic actuarial profile, which should be based solely on ordinary insurance principles.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2013 A14

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