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Statement: New Brunswick - Increase in Automobile Premiums

Honourable senators, I wish to draw a very important matter to the attention of the Senate. For over two years now, the automobile insurance companies have been shamelessly hiking up the insurance premiums for residents of the Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick in particular. I will summarize the situation, if I may.

The insurance companies managed to manipulate the Conservative Government of Ontario into legislating everything their little kingdom desired. Bolstered by that success, and seeing that the Conservatives had cousins in three of the four Atlantic provinces, the companies decided to target consumers in that region next.

In New Brunswick, in 2002 alone, insurance rates increased by 62.4 per cent, not counting discriminatory practices with regard to age and gender nor the fact that New Brunswick's accident rate had dropped by 48 per cent. After several years of inaction, the Lord government struck an all-party legislative committee to examine the issue. The committee wrote an excellent report that was shelved because the insurance companies did not like it. At least the Progressive Conservatives in Nova Scotia imposed a moratorium on increases in automobile premiums while they examined the matter. While Mr. Lord and Mr. Green were strutting around Toronto with the representatives of the insurance companies, New Brunswick consumers were paying increasingly high premiums. This is not surprising, because the Progressive Conservative government in New Brunswick needed money to pay for the elimination of the toll booths. The higher the premiums, the fuller the government's coffers got. In 2002, the Progressive Conservative government of New Brunswick received $99.3 million in various taxes from the insurance companies, thereby endorsing the vicious cycle of increased premiums for consumers. After years of inaction and visits to Toronto, the Progressive Conservative government introduced automobile insurance legislation that lacked vision and maturity.

However, the legislation honours the wishes of the companies and hurts consumers. This legislation, in my opinion, also violates article 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of association, because it prohibits insurance companies from reducing premiums for various associations. Why car insurance and not dental insurance or drug insurance, which associations also have? Will New Brunswick consumers soon have to pay dearly for their insurance?