Clash at auto-insurance committee

November 13, 2003

Fredericton: The words of one speaker left a sour note at meetings Wednesday of the legislative committee looking at auto-insurance in New Brunswick.

Lawrence Solomon told committee members that public insurance puts dangerous drivers on the road.

“It’s young males, for example, who are the very riskiest population. They don’t like to pay rates that reflect the risk of having a souped-up car,” Solomon said. “Also older people, they don’t always want to accept that as they get older they lose some of their faculties.”

Solomon, a researcher who calls himself a consumer advocate, appeared before the committee on behalf of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, who paid for his trip to appear before the committee in Fredericton.

He says he was hired by insurance companies because they have a stake in private insurance.

“They are in deep deep trouble. They need help and that’s why they asked me to come,” Solomon said.

However, for that reason, the head of the legislative committee – NDP leader Elizabeth Weir – said Solomon had misled the committee. She says Solomon didn’t originally tell the committee he was being paid by the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Weir also takes issue with his research because she says it doesn’t include data from New Brunswick.

“We’ve read his presentation, he was specifically asked if he had anything new to contribute to the committee, in terms of New Brunswick experience; there’s nothing in his presentation to the committee,” Weir said. “I don’t see why someone from Toronto, Ontario should be making recommendations to New Brunswick citizens.”

Mary Lou O’Reilly of the Insurance Bureau of Canada defends Solomon’s research, “We certainly didn’t formulate his ideas. We did not fund his research. We only facilitated his travel and his arrival here in New Brunswick.”

The standing committee wraps up its hearings Thursday. Committee members will deliberate on which system of public insurance they like best and submit a report by the end of December.

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