New BC Liberal leader not worried about ICBC mess
Published Monday, February 5, 2018 6:31PM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 6, 2018 8:00AM PST
The new leader of the BC Liberals says he's not worried about an ICBC fiasco that has everyone pointing fingers about who's to blame.
Minutes after Andrew Wilkinson celebrated his leadership victory Saturday, he started putting the NDP government on notice.
"My job is to ask smart, incisive questions that make the NDP's skin crawl," he said that night.
But Wilkinson is facing questions himself, including ones about the mess at ICBC.
Last week, the province's attorney general sought permission to release a 2014 report on ICBC's finances, claiming the documents showed how the former Liberals could have acted to prevent the crisis the Crown corporation now faces. David Eby's office said the report made several suggestions about dealing with financial problems.
"They had a report on their desks in 2014 that pointed out these trends that said ICBC was not in a sustainable situation," Eby said.
"Instead of releasing the report now they cut pages out of it."
His request to make previously scrubbed sections of the report public came days after the provincial auto insurer posted net losses of $935 million in the first nine months of the fiscal year. The losses are expected to reach $1.3 billion by the end of Q4.
But Wilkinson said he's not concerned.
"What are they going to do apart from throwing around blame? Motorists are waiting to hear what they're going to do," he said.
Eby responded: "Mr. Wilkinson reminds me of a guy who borrowed the family car, drove it into the telephone pole and now says he doesn't want to play the blame game."
A political communications expert likened the ICBC news to "a slow motion train-wreck, going on for many years."
Royal Roads University professor David Black said it could be a real problem for Wilkinson in the short term.
The problem is perhaps made worse by a critique highlighted by the NDP from the Liberal leadership campaign. In November, Wilkinson grilled fellow contender Todd Stone about ICBC, saying it was in his ministry for four years.
Wilkinson was also in cabinet at the time, but said he's never seen the full ICBC report. He said it was a surprise to hear that the situation was so dire, but that he wasn't sure how gaining further access to the report would help.
"All we hear is they're going to block pipelines, they're going to run around after four-year-old reports that may be irrelevant by now," he said.
"Let's talk about governing for the sake of B.C."
But Black said providing an answer could help the Liberals.
"This party needs to recapture its reputation as a good steward of the economy, and right now, achieving that is finding a good answer to what happened with ICBC.”
The political blame game isn't likely to go away as the current government gets ready to make changes that could be unpopular.
Eby told CTV Monday that the ICBC reforms could be met with criticism, but that the focus will be on keeping rates affordable. He said anticipated opposition from drivers is likely why the previous government chose not to address the problem in the first place.
The attack on the Liberals may have been meant as a way to curb some of that criticism, though it appears Wilkinson won't be backing down.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan