Less than two weeks after ICBC announced it was projecting more than $1 billion in losses by the end of the fiscal year, the provincial government has announced ambitious plans to extinguish what Attorney General David Eby has described as a “financial dumpster fire.”
The updated budget forecast unveiled Tuesday predicts increasing revenue reaching $62.5 billion in the 2021-22 fiscal year. And the NDP is expecting ICBC will be in the black to the tune of $86 million by 2020-21.
The province is also expecting to rake in more than twice as much in speculation tax over the next year, from $87 million in 2018-19 to $185 million in 2019-20, despite the current slowdown in the real estate market.
Since the public auto insurer's dire financial situation became public, Eby has blamed a number of factors, including distracted driving, alleged overbilling by auto body shops and financial mismanagement by the Liberals, who were in power for 16 years before John Horgan's NDP took over government in July of 2017.
The province has since introduced changes such as caps on person injury claims, limits on the use of duelling experts in ICBC injury claims and other cost-saving measures intended to bring ICBC's finances back in order.
On Wednesday, the Opposition slammed the NDP for predicting such a stunning turnaround.
The 2019 budget shows ICBC losing only $50 million—an improvement of more than $1 billion.
The Liberals say they aren't buying it.
"David Eby is clearly playing games with the numbers," party leader Andrew Wilkinson said. "The NDP talk about affordability, and they're driving up premiums to cover their state-run monopoly."
Finance Minister Carole James, on the other hand, has confidence in the recently announced cost-saving measures.
"If you look at our forecast, we've ensured there is more money next year just in case, but I'm feeling pretty confident," she said.
The province is also changing the way insurance premiums are calculated so that high-risk drivers are forced more while those with clean records get a break.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan