The Insuring Crowns: Canada’s Public Auto Insurers
Keywords:public administration, public policy, public enterprise, Crown corporations, institutional change, cars, government, insurance Corporation of British Columbia, insurance plans
AbstractDespite a wave of privatizations of Crown corporations in Canada over the last twenty years, the governments of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, each continue to own and operate monopoly automobile insurance Crown corporations. These three enterprises, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) and Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), respectively, are all products of the postwar welfare state, but have adapted well to their surroundings over their lifecycles. Each has undergone a significant transformation and as such they have shown a remarkable resiliency of a public enterprise that is under appreciated in the Canadian public policy context. This paper will outline these three organizations’ historical origins and their contemporary status in order to attempt to explain how they have managed to survive in an envirnment that is hostile to public enterprise. Reasons for their development include a postwar ethos conductive to the creation of public enterprises; significant systemic problems in the insurance sectors in each province and an inability of private insurers to mount an effective counter campaign against their creation. Their resilience is linked to their effectiveness at providing low-cost insurance coverage; institutional dyanmicism in the from of effective and competent leadership; the jobs they provide in the home province as well as an overall limited capacity for any governments to act in a proactive manner. They continue to exist because of the high political costs of elimination are not matched by a corresponding degree of political gains which would be realized from their liquidation.