Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - March 17, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta
36 -THIUTHUIDOINIRAID - Weonetdoy, March 17,1t71 WET LOSER - This artful dodger almost managed to an earl/ spring rain. He was splattered, but good, despite escape a motorist's wake in Battle Creek, Michigan, but his high-flying efforts, he was too close to the puddle left by melting snow and British Columbia's compulsory auto insurance Controversy still is swirling By KEN METHERAL VANCOUVER (CP) -Controversy continues to swirl around British Columbia's compulsory automobile insurance system, headed now into its second year of operation. It has been lauded as the best auto insurance system in the world and derided as so bad it could lead to the downfall of Premier W. A. C. Bennett's Social Credit government. A unique example of planned coexistence, the B.C. scheme provides mandatory no-fault coverage without removing the right to sue for personal injury. It leaves the auto insurance business in the hands of private companies but provides a measure of government control through a government-appointed review board, established earlier this year to keep an eye on rates. Central feature of the scheme, which compels all of the more than one million motorists in B.C. to carry a minimum $50,000 public liability coverage, is the no-fault concept of providing basic compensation to traffic victims regardless of blame. In a submission to a United States Senate subcommittee last year, Dr. Allen M. Linden, a professor at Osgoode Hall law school in Toronto, described the B.C. plan as "perhaps the best system of auto insurance in the common-law world." Dr. Linden praised the no-fault provision and a scale of benefits "much more realistic than those provided in the other provinces." PLEASED WITH PLAN D. W. Bird, executive vice-president of the B.C. Automobile Association, says the organization was "more than pleased" with the plan during the first year of operation. "The no-fault provision is working extremely well." The 180,000-member asso- ciation is both the chief spokesman for B.C. motorists and the largest underwriter of auto insurance in the province through its subsidiary, B.C. Motorist Insurance Co., launched at the beginning of 1970. Tommy Holmes, manager of B.C. Motorist Insurance, says the B.C. plan is relatively easy to administer and is resulting in a "definite trend" toward a reduction in the number of cases going to the courts. A. E. Warrick, vice-president of Northwestern Mutual Insurance Co. and B.C. director of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, also reports a noticeable drop in litigation. Last year his company handled 9,000 claims, 1,000 more than the year before. But the number of writs against policy holders dropped to 108 from 121 in 1969 "and some of the 1970 total involved accidents that happened before the new B.C. plan went into effect." An enthusiastic supporter of the B.C. plan is Justin Har-bord, head of a Victoria insurance agency and president of the Canadian Federation of Insurance Agents and Brokers. He says its no-fault provision has removed "a lot of hardships from a lot of people who now receive prompt and equitable payment when they are hurt in accidents." OPPOSED BY NDP "In many instances, before 1970, they would have re> ceived nothing." Legislation setting up the B.C. insurance plan was approved during the 1969 session of the B.C. legislature over the protests of the New Democratic Party opposition, which sought a government-run plan along the lines of that in force in Saskatchewan and being introduced now in Manitoba. The B.C. legislation provides for a wide range of payments regardless of fault, in- cluding basic death benefits ot $5,000 for the head of a household, lesser amounts for dependents and up to $50 weekly to survivors for a total of 104 weeks. Persons disabled in a traffic accident receive up to $50 weekly until able to return to work, plus compensation for medical and other expenses in excess of those covered by the provincial medical care plan. Much of the recent criticism has centred on two points made by the government in introducing the plan-that benefits would be paid quickly because of the no-fault provision and that elimination of the need for costly court actions should lead to lower insurance rates. Speaking during the opening debate of the current legislature session, William Hartley, NDP member for Yale-LU-looet, cited cases of delays in payment of claims and said the government "sits back and lets the insurance companies bleed the people white." CHARGES REJECTED "No-fault insurance should work along the lines of work-in e n 's compensation," he said. "Traffic victims should get their money in a week or two, but this has not been the case. No-fault insurance is very poorly run, inefficient, too little, too late." He renewed an NDP plea for a single government-administered insurance fund instead of policies handled by the 185 private carriers registered in the province. Referring to the breakup of the Liberal-Conservative coalition government following its election in 1948 that led to Social Credit winning power four years later, Mr. Hartley predicted: "Just as hospital insurance caused collapse of coalition, so car insurance will bring about the defeat of this government." Insurance men generally reject charges of slow payment although admitting that with so many carriers involved "there may be one or two bad ones." The automobile association says it has heard few complaints about delayed payments, and Mr. Houses says that insofar as B.C. Motorist Insurance is concerned, cheques covering most claims are processed and on their way to motorists in about three weeks. Speed of payment under no-fault insurance is cited by Dr. Linden as one of its major benefits over the fault system inherent in normal liability coverage. He said the problem of delay is one of the fault's of the fault system, adding: "Even where a victim of an automobile crash has a meritorious claim, he must wait too long for his award. In Toronto, the victim has to wait an average of two years to get a trial." Despite government predictions of lower insurance rates, introduction of the B.C. plan and its wider range of benefits resulted in an increase of about $13 in the premium paid by the average B.C. motorist last year. And premiums are going up another 10 to 12 per cent this year, compared with an average increase of about nine per cent in the rest of the country. Mr. Warrick says the main reason for the higher B.C. rate is the cost of collision repairs in the province. Body shops in B.C. now charge $12 an hour, about $3 above the national average. Insurance men say it will be another year before a clear picture begins to emerge on the cost factor of no-fault insurance. "This is an entirely new field," said Mr. Warrick. "We have little-virtually nothing-to go on." 50 times greater than Lake Diefenbaker Vast water potential discovered REGINA (CP) - A sometimes-bothersome underground water formation discovered last year by the Saskatchewan Research Council has a potential source of water 50 times greater than the man-made Lake Diefenbaker. The supply, part of the Blair-more Formation which has been troublesome to potash mines in southern areas of the province by causing flooding, could produce up to 500 million gallons of fresh water daily if used to its Ml potential. Lake Diefenbaker, the reservoir of the South Saskatchewan River irrigation project, covers 109,600 acres and contains about eight million acre-feet of water. An acre-foot of water is the volume covering an acre of land to a depth of one foot. Dr. W. A. Meneley, a research council geologist, said the formation nears the surface across northern Saskatchewan and eventually surfaces along a line from Lac La Range through Hudson Bay and into Manitoba. The water is 2,500 feet below the surface in the Regina area, rising to within 1,800 feet of the surface near S'askatoon and to within a few hundred feet farther north. At the deeper levels it has a high salt content. Ceylon eyes republic role COLOMBO (AP) - Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaran-aike has introduced in Parliament the first of a series of resolutions to make Ceylon an independent republic within the Commonwealth. The resolutions will amend the constitution, Britain's Ceylon Independence Act of 1947, to transform Ceylon into "a socialist democracy aiming at the distribution of the social product equitably among all its citizens." Passage is assured, because Mrs. Bandaranaike's coalition has 126 of the 157 seats in the I assembly, more than the two- thirds necessary for constitu-t i o n a 1 amendments. Government spokesmen said several months will be required to approve the resolutions. A crown colony for 146 years, Ceylon joined the Commonwealth as an independent state Lri 1948. Its new status will withdraw recognition of the Queen as the island's titular ruler but not as head of the Commonwealth. A HUNDRED CITIES Southern California's Los Angeles Basin, a drained coastal plain ringed by mountains, holds nearly a hundred cities. However, natural rainfall and runoff flush the salt out as the groundwater nears the surface. Dr. Meneley said last year's discovery of the potential water supply, through a council program, was completely unexpected. The program is aimed at mapping all underground water supplies in Saskatchewan's settled areas. Forty per cent of the mapping has been completed with the rest scheduled to be completed by 1972. He said the water found in the formation across the northern part is "extremely good qua! ity" and could provide unlim ited sources for agricultural and industrial development in the region. "Such a supply would be very reliable source of water if it is developed to full potential.' Dr. Meneley said the water could be lifted from the formation with wells and pumps. 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