Editor’s Take: Auto insurance in Manitoba is a red tape road

Every spring it seems like it’s Autopac season here in Manitoba.

There’s a perpetual lineup at the local agencies as classic cars, motorcycles, recreation vehicles and farm trucks hit the road again for another year.

It makes no sense whatsoever that we’re all required to attend, in person, at an office of an insurance broker, to plate a vehicle in this province. Even less today, with a pandemic raging, but never, really, considering we’ve probably all got more important things to do.

Just to our west, there’s the example of another public insurer who’s stepped out the 1980s and embraced the digital world. SGI, the provincially owned-and-operated automobile insurer of Saskatchewan, introduced an online portal a few years back, and has dramatically expanded it over the past couple of years.

Friends and family from the province of my birth inform me they can now insure a vehicle, suspend the insurance for a period and put it on ‘layup’ insurance, and even cancel a plate entirely. One former colleague says her husband manages the entire farm fleet with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks every year.

It seems the problem isn’t with the Crown corporation. MPI seems more than willing to embrace the online world.

In fact, it first proposed selling automobile insurance online in 2019, only to be met with the apoplexy of the Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba, that was suddenly faced with the prospect of being cut out of the equation.

It took nearly two full years of dispute between those two parties to finally half-settle the question of online insurance sales in Manitoba.

What they ultimately agreed to was a fee structure that saw a phased-in change that, by the end of a five-year agreement, would see brokers earning 4.2 per cent for in-person transactions and 2.3 per cent for online renewals.

None of the media reports or public announcements from the time of the agreement in late 2020 made it entirely clear just what work the brokers would be doing to earn these fees.

But if the goal was to allow Manitobans more and better online options, a small ‘made-in-Manitoba’ tax was a small price to pay — except insurance buyers are still going to be waiting quite some time before they see any movement.

MPI now estimates it will be April 2023 before it permits any expansion of online services.

That means it’s going to be nearly five years since the initial commitment was made before customers will have the option to use online services to license a vehicle.

Somehow, through the overly politicized atmosphere that surrounds MPI, customers are being forgotten as the interested parties within the system jockey for position.

It’s 2021. A farmer shouldn’t have to take time out of their busy schedule to go to town to plate the fuel truck.

They should be able to go online and make it happen in a few minutes.

Where’s the beef?

It’s a good news-bad news sort of thing for the beef sector.

A recent survey from Dalhousie University and polling firm Angus Reid says that 92 per cent of Canadians eat beef, and 65 per cent consider themselves ‘regular’ beef consumers. That rises as high as 73 per cent in — perhaps unsurprisingly — Alberta, and dips as low as 58 per cent just next door, in British Columbia.

The top reason survey subjects cited for their enjoyment of this protein source was its taste. They also cited it as a good protein source, and part of important culinary traditions for their friends and families.

But there are some clouds on the horizon, mostly in the form of consumers who appear to be reconsidering their relationship with beef. A surprising 25 per cent of survey respondents said they’d thought about cutting out beef, and that inclination seems strongest amongst those under 35, where 31 per cent said they’d considered cutting out beef.

Perhaps more troubling, nearly half of respondents thought more people will cut their consumption in the coming years, and 44 per cent said that it is “desirable” to see beef consumption fall over time.

Environmental concerns were cited, as were price (49 per cent) and health concerns (49 per cent). Manitobans were most likely to see price as an influencing factor in the future, while British Columbians see health concerns as a significant factor.

It’s unlikely that a protein source as entrenched as beef is going to go anywhere, but it’s also clearly a sector that could face some headwinds.

Meeting these consumer concerns and telling the sector’s good news story as a healthy and environmentally sustainable protein is going to be more important than ever.

And so is making improvements, where necessary, to address those growing consumer concerns.

About the author

Editor

Gord Gilmour

Gord Gilmour is Editor of the Manitoba Co-operator.

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