Government interfered in dispute between MPI and insurance brokers: Manitoba NDP

The Manitoba NDP says documents prove the Pallister government involved itself in a dispute between private insurance brokers and Manitoba Public Insurance, and it could cost ratepayers millions.

“These documents show that the government is interfering with the insurance industry,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew.

According to internal memos, briefing notes and emails obtained by the NDP, MPI wants to offer driver license and insurance services online. A directive may have prevented that from happening.

In an email dated March 11, MPI president Ben Graham writes that the government has decided that “brokers will own 100 per cent of all online MPI transactions.”

The email goes on to say, “MPI will not have any direct online functionality with customers.”

The documents estimate this could cost MPI $23 million over five years, equating to a .04 per cent rate hike for drivers.

“They’re cutting a sweetheart deal for insurance brokers and it’s costing motorists — people who drive cars and have to insure them in Manitoba — it’s costing you money,” said Kinew.

Premier Brian Pallister says there’s been no interference from his government.

“If we were interested in playing favourites with people, wouldn’t we have done it by now,” said Pallister.

“This government has stood for Manitoba taxpayers and we’re going to keep doing that.”

Pallister says negotiations between both sides have been emotional and adversarial but are still taking place. He says nothing has been decided and he won’t support any model that costs ratepayers more, suggesting a shared system may be the solution.

“I want a model that works for the customer, it has to be cost effective and it has to be, has to be fair to all concerned. And the one-size-fits-all model isn’t the one that works,” said Pallister.

The Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba said brokers getting cut out of an online system would hurt customers. It says brokers are licensed professionals that provide expertise, not to mention the jobs that would be impacted.

“That would be terrible news for consumers, first of all,” said IBAM CEO Grant Wainikka “There would be mass layoffs. There would be small business failures.”

MPI sent CTV News a statement:

“As a Crown Corporation, we continue to have constructive dialogue with all stakeholders aimed at meeting the needs of all Manitobans with fiscal prudence at front of mind.”