Proposed Changes from the UCP Government will be Costly to Albertans. No Fault Insurance & Victims of Crime Legislation

At McGuiness Law, we typically avoid talking about politics in our blog posts. However, when proposed changes to legislation will have a negative impact on not only all Albertans but more specifically, our clients, we feel like it is our duty to speak up.

We not only fight for the rights of our clients in the courtroom but also outside of the courtroom by showing our support against these proposed legislative changes by the UCP Government.

The Government of Alberta needs to properly inform, consult, and educate Albertans on the changes they want to make. They need to be transparent in who will truly benefit from these changes, and begin hiring people to fairly represent Albertans.

Essentially, the UCP needs to put people (Albertans) over profits.

What exactly are we standing against?

We are standing against two major bill changes proposed by the UCP that will have lasting negative effects on the lives of Albertans.

Say “No” to No-Fault Insurance

The province of Alberta currently follows a tort law system that provides compensation for people who have been injured in a motor vehicle accident. Under the tort law system, innocent injured Albertans who have been in a vehicle accident are entitled to 100% full and fair compensation. This compensation includes pain and suffering, income loss, out-of-pocket expenses, medical coverage, and lost homemaking capacity.

The current system in Alberta allows any individual that gets in a car accident the right to choose! You can either take what the insurance company is wanting to pay for your pain and suffering (which is typically less than what you rightfully deserve) OR you can sue the negligent driver’s insurance company to help compensate for your injuries, regardless if you’ve been told your claim is “capped.”

Instead, the Government of Alberta has created a committee to suggest to Albertans a new insurance system called No-Fault Insurance. This committee is comprised of three individuals who have very close ties to the insurance companies in Alberta. One is a former auto insurance executive and also a board member for a large auto insurance company that has previously worked to remove rights for injured people to get compensation. This is an already biased group that is looking out for the insurance companies, NOT Albertans.

In a no-fault insurance system, the legal rights of innocent victims that get injured by drivers are removed. Essentially, the right to sue to receive compensation for pain and suffering from the at-fault party’s insurance will no longer be an option. Instead, they will be replacing it with a benefits schedule for injuries resulting from a car accident. What this means is that a dollar amount for each type of injury based on what the insurance companies believe is fair will be applied. If you think that insurance companies are looking out for you, rather than their bottom line, you might want to do a little more research.

If you look into what other provinces are saying that currently have a No-Fault Insurance System, like British Columbia or Ontario, they will strongly urge Albertans to fight against these changes.

If Alberta does change to a No-Fault Insurance, this is what will likely occur:

1. Insurance company profits increase even further, and no one gets a break on their premiums.

2. Albertans pay more for their premiums for less protection.

It’s what happened to other provinces who have a No-Fault System, so there’s a pretty good chance that it will happen in Alberta as well.

To learn more about these changes you can visit Fair Alberta.

Proposed Changes to the Victims of Crime Legislation

These next set of changes are very near and dear to us at McGuiness Law. We’ve represented many women that have been a Victim and Survivor of Crime in Alberta.

Though we help these women feel heard in the legal system, the emotional healing process is a long and challenging journey. No one ever expects to be a victim of a crime, either directly or as a witness. However, these unforeseen incidents do happen.

That is why it is disappointing to see the UCP Government propose a bill that will take money away from these survivors who have endured so much physically and emotionally.

Currently, the Victims of Crime Financial Benefits Program provides three types of financial benefits to Albertans including:

  1. Injury Benefit – for those who have were injured as a result of a severe and violent crime in Alberta.
  2. Death Benefit – for those who paid the funeral costs of a victim who died as a result of a violent crime in Alberta. The maximum death benefit amount is $12,500.00.
  3. Witness to Homicide Benefit – This is a relatively new benefit. For those that have been psychologically injured from witnessing a serious crime that resulted in death. Individuals who had a strong emotional attachment to the deceased, and they witnessed the death or was present in the immediate aftermath, can apply for this benefit. The maximum homicide benefit amount is $5,000.00.can apply for This fund currently provides emotional, financial, and physical support, such as hotels through victims’ services units across the province.

The changes that the UCP is proposing to this program will essentially take money away from those affected by crimes in our province. Some proposed initiatives include hiring of 50 new prosecutors and increasing funding for the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT), and the creation of the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Force.

The changes that the Government is making initially sounds like a great idea until you question where they are pulling their funds from. To fund these changes, the UCP plans to pull back on financial benefits paid to victims of crime, an incredibly vulnerable group.

In addition, the government is planning to eliminate its current Injury Benefit and Witness to Homicide Benefit. On top of that, the financial benefits to victims of crime has been reduced to only include severe crimes.

Even more frustrating is that the two women who have been appointed to make changes to this legislation have no experience working with victims of crime. Angela Pitt has a background in event planning and Tracy Allard owned Tim Horton franchises in British Columbia and Alberta.

What gives these women the rights or experience to understand what the life-long impacts could be for a victim of a crime? What gives these women the knowledge and expertise to determine what is a ‘severe crime’? Why did the UCP not consult with or include any trauma psychologists, victims advocates, first nations advocates, and activists of colour on this committee, particularly since those last two groups are statistically more likely to be victims of a crime?

At McGuiness Law, we are appalled by these proposed changes. We fight for the rights of our clients, many of whom have been a victim of a crime. And we will continue to stand up for them by showing our support AGAINST these bills.

However, we urge you to stand up against these proposed changes as well. Send your local MLA an email stating that you are against a No-Fault Insurance system and Bill 16: the Victims of Crime (Strengthening Public Safety) Amendment Act.

You have the right to be informed about these proposed changes and their true impacts. The UCP needs to provide fair consultations with Albertans, appoint unbiased industry experts to their committees, and begin putting people over profits.

Become informed.

Speak up.

Because Albertans deserve better!

If you have been a Victim of a Crime, we encourage you to apply for the Victims Financial Benefits before anything changes. Our team can provide a free guided consultation. Call us at (780) 900-7941 or visit McGuinessLaw.com