Best options?

Since the 1970s in Manitoba, there has been an increasingly oppressive force coming against our people. It’s called Autopac. In 1969, Manitoba elected an NDP government under the leadership of Ed Schreyer. Schreyer was a populist, a talented man, an excellent speaker. He gave Manitoba it’s very own Pierre Trudeau. He was different from the politicians of the 50s and 60s. He was less formal, younger than most, spoke well and was full of ideas. His time had come it seemed, and into government he swept a number of ideas that people seemed hungry for. Compulsory auto insurance was however met with mixed emotions and emotional it was. There were demonstrations, rancorous debate and hard feelings that linger to this day. Compulsory auto insurance provided by a single government crown corporation came into place. The big argument was that the “mean old insurance companies” were allegedly gouging the public. Auto insurance was needed and it was deemed that the Crown Corp with  a monopoly was the only way to get it.
The same path was followed in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
In the intervening years, Autopac, or Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, has moved into an ever tightening grip position on the Manitoba scene. Not only do they handle almost all the vehicle insurance in Manitoba, the only exceptions being some optional “extra” coverages, they control the disposal of the salvage vehicles.
In a market as small as Manitoba, it’s doubtful if Autopac will ever be really challenged for its monopoly, but it could happen. Certainly phone and TV rates are now commonly accepted as a competitive market. Auto insurance has that certain third party liability aspect to it that makes it more difficult to open it up for competition. Put another way, it probably doesn’t matter much to anyone else if a person owns a cheap phone or any phone at all. If a car accident happens, it may be very important to a third party that the insurance is properly in place. 
But aside from that argument about private versus public, like all monopolies, Autopac has stretched its tentacles into areas that are actually none of its business. Case in point, Autopac will not allow an older car that has been in an accident to be re-built. Doesn’t matter if it’s rare, valuable, or has personal sentimental attachment. It doesn’t matter, Autopac says no way. And it’s not about the actual car or the safety of the car. It’s about being “green”. The Government of Manitoba has decided that old cars are “bad”, that new cars are “good” so every chance they have to zap an old car, it goes to the auction and it’s sold for parts only or scrap. That VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, can never ride the road again.
You see the government has decided that even an older car with a good motor, well tuned, etc. isn’t good for the environment, so off the road it goes. Doesn’t matter that it may not be true. Doesn’t matter that an older car may be all that a working poor person or a student can afford. Doesn’t matter.An arbitrary decision has been made.
There are several things wrong with that thinking. First is that some older cars are quite fuel efficient, higher even than some new ones. Some older cars may have special attachment for people and they may in fact be willing, able and wanting to restore them. Some people may only be able to afford a $1,000 car, if they can afford  a car at all. Outside of Winnipeg and Brandon, very few Manitobans have access to public transit so that oft-promoted option isn’t available as good as the government tries try to make it sound.
The biggest problem is even deeper. Should Autopac be a tool of government environmental policy? If smoke belching cars are bad, should not government regulate those specific cars rather than just all old cars that they happen to have control over? The other aspect is that even if a car’s emissions are a bit higher than some arbitrary ideal, government has not even come close to figuring out how much environmental “damage” is done by building a new car. Considering all that impact, the old car would have to belch for a long time to come even close to the impact of building a new car.
It’s ironic that the government will reward builders at public expense, who use old barn beams or clean up masonry salvage in new buildings but don’t even give people a chance to save old cars at their own expense. Governments will smile proudly about an old barn beam in the fireplace mantle of the Country Meadows Care Home at Neepawa and how the project received design “credits” for doing so but if Grandma wants to keep her 1988 Chevy, she gets slammed.
One can argue that Autopac may be the best insurance option in Manitoba and there will be lots of opposition to that premise. No one can argue that Autopac should be so overbearing in what cars we choose to drive or not drive. The monopoly has gone too far and it’s time it was reined in.

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kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247