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Auto insurance panel recommends Alberta adopt a private, no-fault system

Auto insurance panel recommends Alberta adopt a private, no-fault systemA new provincial bureaucracy, not the courts, should deal with car crash injury cases, a government-appointed auto insurance panel recommends. Saying there's no evidence the courtroom battles help injured patients recover faster, the three-member automobile insurance advisory committee recommends that Alberta ditch its tort system of insurance and adopt a private, no-fault insurance model. Such major change would require the government to create a new, independent traffic injury regulator to handle claims and assess what benefits injured people should receive. It would be funded by industry and government. "The committee concluded that due to poor health outcomes and continuous price instability resulting from the current Alberta model, it must be fundamentally reformed to properly serve the interests of traffic injured and insured motorists alike," said committee chair Chris Daniels. It's an approach some critics say is too formulaic to serve crash victims well. The panel also recommends the government legislate the use of winter tires during  Alberta's colder months. In its 536-page report, released Thursday, the panel said the average consumer with full insurance coverage would see a 9.4 per cent reduction in premiums if Alberta adopts the suggested model. Panel members also say rates would be expected to hold steady for three years, then rise no more than the inflation rate in the following years. Short-term measures to address insurance costs But Alberta's finance minister is reticent to take big steps immediately. Minister Travis Toews announced legislation Thursday to move on some, but not all of the panel's 37 recommendations. In part, the interim steps are supposed to help stabilize rising auto insurance rates in the province, he said. "Firstly to consumers, but also to all those in the industry, whether it's health-care professionals, the Alberta legal experts and certainly insurance stakeholders, we owe it to all Albertans to provide feedback on this report," Toews told reporters. The minister tabled Bill 41, the Insurance (Enhancing Driver Affordability and Care) Amendment Act, on Thursday. The bill proposes changes Toews said should save the average driver about $120 per year, per vehicle. However, the changes could limit the financial help available for people who sustain "minor injuries" in a collision. Should the legislation pass, treatment for any longer-term complications resulting from sprains, strains or whiplash would be subject to a $5,300 coverage cap for pain and suffering damages. The bill would also allow dentists to become certified examiners who assess crash injuries, in addition to doctors. Injured people would also have access to $1,000-worth of treatment by dentists, psychologists and occupational therapists. Insurance companies could offer drivers more coverage options, such as pay-per-kilometre plans, should the bill pass. Not-at-fault drivers could deal directly with their own insurance company to get damages paid for. The bill would also limit the number of experts who could testify in court during injury claims lawsuits. As for bigger changes to insurance regulation, Toews said the government must first do widespread consultation. He expects that process to start later this fall and stretch into early 2021. Government will consider further steps by mid-2021, he said, but there's no pre-determined outcome. "The committee make a compelling recommendation, in the recommendation in moving to privately delivered no-fault [insurance]," he said. Government caving in to insurance lobbyists: Opposition The Opposition NDP has been calling on the government to freeze insurance premiums until next year. They say insurance companies are turning profits, particularly during the pandemic. NDP Service Alberta critic Jon Carson also said insurance premiums have escalated since the UCP government axed an NDP five-per-cent rate hike cap. In the legislature on Thursday, Carson accused the finance minister of being bad at math and serving as a "mouthpiece" for backroom lobbyists. According to the provincial lobbyists registry, there are currently 33 companies or associations registered to lobby the government about insurance. "Do you get the harm that you caused my constituents and so many others who need to keep their cars on the road?" Carson asked Toews. Toews said insurance rates are jumping in Alberta because the former NDP government didn't deal with the root of the problem — something he said his government will have the courage to do. He said the Opposition wants publicly run insurance like B.C. or Saskatchewan. B.C.'s public insurer has been bleeding money in the last few years. "The member's recommendations belong in a dumpster fire," said Toews.

Meng Wanzhou scores victory as lawyers allowed to argue U.S. tried to trick Canada

Meng Wanzhou scores victory as lawyers allowed to argue U.S. tried to trick CanadaMeng Wanzhou scored a victory in her battle to fight extradition Thursday as the judge overseeing the proceedings agreed to let the Huawei executive's lawyers pursue their claim that the United States misled Canada about the basics of the case.In a ruling posted online, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said there was an "air of reality to Ms. Meng's allegations of abuse of process in relation to the requesting state's conduct."At a hearing held last month, the chief financial officer's lawyers said they believed the evidence was strong enough to prove that the United States omitted key components of the case that undermine allegations of fraud against their client.Holmes' ruling means Meng's lawyers will be able to include those claims as one of three lines of attack in February, when they try to convince the judge that the entire case should be thrown out for abuse of process.In her ruling, Holmes noted that staying the proceedings against Meng was a possibility if the defence can make its case, but that she might also consider a less drastic remedy, like cutting out parts of the Crown's record deemed unreliable.Judge rules new evidence allowedMeng is charged with fraud and conspiracy in the United States in relation to allegations that she lied to HSBC about Huawei's relationship with a hidden subsidiary that was accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.Prosecutors claim that by lying to HSBC to continue a financial relationship, Meng placed the bank at risk of loss and prosecution for breaching the same sanctions.As part of the extradition process, the United States provided a record of the case that includes slides from the PowerPoint presentation Meng gave an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in August 2013.But Meng's lawyers claim the U.S. deliberately omitted two slides from the PowerPoint that showed Meng didn't mislead the bank.And they also claim that where the U.S. said only "junior" employees knew about the real relationship between Huawei and its subsidiary, senior executives at the bank were also aware.In her ruling, Holmes said she would allow two statements from the missing slides to be included as evidence in the extradition case. She also agreed to allow evidence about HSBC's management structure to help determine who is junior and who is not.Rights violation issue not raised, CBSA agent testifiesHolmes released her decision even as Meng's lawyers were in court gathering evidence related to the second line of argument that there was an abuse of process: the claim that her rights were violated at the time of her arrest.Meng was questioned by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers for three hours before she was arrested on Dec. 1, 2018, after her arrival at Vancouver's airport on a flight from Hong Kong.The defence team claims the CBSA and RCMP conspired with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to mount a covert criminal investigation into Meng by using the border agency's extraordinary powers to question her without a lawyer.The CBSA agent who seized Meng's phones was on the stand Thursday.Border services officer Scott Kirkland testified that he believed there were grounds to question Meng about the possibility she might be involved in espionage. On his first say of testimony, Kirkland said that was because the CBSA's internal system has flagged her for "national security" reasons, but he admitted in cross-examination that that might not have been the case. Meng's lawyer suggested that she was only targeted because of the criminal charges.Kirkland also said he thought the RCMP should have arrested Meng immediately, before the CBSA carried out its inquiries, because he worried about the impact of a delay on her right to obtain legal counsel.Kirkland said he knew the high profile case would end up in court.But he said he didn't raise the issue of possible Charter of Rights and Freedoms violations out loud. And no one else among the RCMP and CBSA officers who were present said the word "Charter."Two weeks have been set aside in February 2021 for arguments about the record of the case and the alleged violation of Meng's rights at the time of her arrest.The third defence claim relates to allegations that U.S. President Donald Trump has politicized the case by threatening to use Meng as a bargaining chip to get a better deal with China.Holmes noted in her ruling that if any one of those lines of argument were proven, they might not be enough in and of themselves to derail the case, but the cumulative effect of all of them might end in a stay. Meng has denied the allegations against her.

Thursday 29th of October 2020 11:19:32


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