Premier Brian Pallister says he wants Manitoba Public Insurance and private insurance brokers to resolve their differences, but he won't rule out appointing a mediator or conciliator if discussions flounder.
Speaking to reporters Friday, the premier emphasized that he doesn't want to hold the threat of mediation over either side.
He said discussions between MPI and the brokers that sell a majority of its products "have improved in recent weeks."
The Free Press, citing recently disclosed internal MPI documents, reported earlier this week that brokers have insisted on full control of future online transactions involving auto insurance and driver's licences, and that the government appears supportive of that goal.
Pallister insisted Friday the government has made no decision concerning online sales and he wants the two sides to come to an agreement.
MPI has determined that if all future online sales were done through the corporation's portal, the savings to Manitoba ratepayers could amount to $237 million over five years or the equivalent of a 4.4 per cent reduction in basic Autopac rates. Under that scenario, in-person service would continue to be carried out both by private brokers and MPI staff in company stores.
The Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba has said that any changes that reduce commissions paid to brokers would lead to job losses and closed brokerages.
Pallister said he believes in giving ratepayers value for their money, and he wants to see a negotiated settlement that does just that.
"Our focus has been to make sure there's a civil discussion going forward," he said. "If we wished to impose a solution to benefit one side or the other that could have been done a long time ago. It hasn't been done.
"What we have done is to try to make sure that there is a relationship that can serve the people of Manitoba now and going forward."
He said he is hopeful that an agreement can be reached, as it has in other provinces with public insurance corporations and private brokers. But that will mean some give and take.
"At some point, you can't rag the puck forever here. So I think it's important to understand that at some point there may need to be some mediation or some conciliation undertaken here," he said.
He emphasized, however, that he doesn't want to use the threat of mediation against either side.
Pallister also took offence at suggestions that his past involvement in the insurance industry — he never sold Autopac — is causing him to take sides in the dispute between brokers and MPI.
"I insured people when I was in the private sector, not cars. And so continually repeating that I have an interest in the insurance industry when it's not the insurance industry you're writing about is not fair or helpful," he said.
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.