In a rare, if not unprecedented, move, the organization representing the province's insurance brokers has applied for intervener status at hearings into Manitoba Public Insurance's 2020 automobile insurance rate application this fall.
The Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba (IBAM) is also requesting that its participation costs be covered by MPI at the hearings before the Public Utilities Board of Manitoba.
In the application, obtained by the Free Press, IBAM said it wants to be involved in the Autopac rate-setting process because MPI has indicated it will raise the role — and cost — of private brokers in the delivery of auto insurance in Manitoba.
Broker remuneration has been a bone of contention between MPI and IBAM — especially in light of the corporation's plans to offer a number of its products and services for sale online. The province's more than 300 brokerages currently receive over $80 million a year in commissions from MPI.
The prospect of online sales represents an opportunity for MPI to save millions of dollars in commission fees annually. IBAM has resisted any move to online sales that does not involve its members. The Pallister government has ordered MPI to begin a formal conciliation process with IBAM in an attempt to work out a solution.
If IBAM's application for intervener status is granted, what have so far been closed-door discussions between the broker lobby group and MPI could be given a public forum.
As an intervener, IBAM would be able to submit evidence and cross-examine witnesses, something it has informed the PUB it is prepared to do.
In its application, IBAM also noted that the Manitoba branch of the Consumers' Association of Canada had advised the PUB that it intends to raise the impact of broker commissions on automobile insurance rates.
"IBAM is seeking intervener status so that the (PUB) will fully and properly understand the issues relating to broker agreements entered into with MPI, the work undertaken and the services that brokers provide in the delivery of MPI services, and the other related insurance related services that brokers provide to all citizens of the Province of Manitoba," the organization said in its application.
Grant Wainikka, IBAM's chief executive officer, would only confirm that the organization has applied for intervener status before the PUB. In an email, he said it would "not be appropriate" for him to comment further until the regulator makes its decision.
MPI must file a rate application with the PUB annually, whether it is seeking an increase or not. In June, it filed documents seeking a minuscule increase of 0.1 per cent in overall insurance premiums for 2020.
Among other things, the corporation is also seeking permission to discontinue an anti-theft discount for newly insured vehicles and to change its fiscal year end to March 31 from the end of February.
MPI said its officials cannot recall IBAM participating in a PUB hearing in the past.
"As per legislation, Manitoba Public Insurance is responsible for the costs associated with respective interveners attending and participating in MPI’s General Rate Application hearing. Groups and associations wishing to hold intervener status (and subsequent recovery of costs) will have their applications reviewed and ultimately approved by the Public Utilities Board," the corporation said in a statement to the Free Press.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Updated on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at 7:56 PM CDT: Fixes typos.