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This article was published 4/7/2019 (364 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Premier Brian Pallister, stung by suggestions he and his government favour private brokers in their negotiations with Manitoba Public Insurance, vowed Thursday to stand up for consumers.
He also released several 2012 government briefing notes, from when the NDP was in power, to show his political opponents had been generous to private insurance brokers in the past.
"If you want to make an allegation of favouritism," he told reporters, "let’s take a look at history."
Pallister pointed to one briefing note which showed commissions paid by MPI to brokers for their services were estimated to be 16.1 per cent higher in 2011 than in 2008. The increase was almost triple the increase in the Consumer Price Index for the same period, the document said.
Documents recently obtained by the provincial NDP through freedom of information legislation show the Pallister government pressured MPI last fall to extend what the Crown corporation felt was a rich contract for brokers by two years. The deal also calls for annual upward adjustments for inflation.
The compensation deal, in force until Feb. 28, 2021, is designed to give the two sides time to work out an agreement on how to deliver online services to Manitoba motorists.
The ability to purchase a driver’s licence or renew an insurance policy online presents potential savings for MPI — and possible commission losses for private insurance brokers, depending on how the deal is structured. The Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba (IBAM) has demanded total broker control over online sales, a position MPI rejects.
Pallister said under the NDP, no progress was made to offer customers a range of licence and insurance transactions online. "Other provinces moved. Manitoba didn’t proceed," he said.
He said it’s only under the Progressive Conservatives (in power since 2016) that meaningful dialogue between IBAM and MPI is beginning to take place to tackle the issue.
Pallister said it’s important a deal be struck that’s favourable to ratepayers, while ensuring MPI and private brokers still have a working relationship once it is in place.
MPI needs private brokers to ensure it is providing service to all Manitobans, he said.
"There’s lots of parts of the province where you wouldn’t be serving the people of Manitoba effectively if you eliminated brokers... entirely," he said.
Pallister said it was unfair to suggest consumers are being "ripped off" under the current broker commission structure. He said reports showing the savings MPI could reap through direct sales to customers do not take in the full impact of what it would cost the corporation to provide the service.
"I’ll stand up for the ratepayers. That’s my first concern, and it’s going to remain my first concern," the premier vowed.
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.
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