Municipalities are reporting significant increases in insurance premiums, with Hastings County facing an expected hike of more than 29 per cent.
The county’s finance committee on Tuesday recommended council ratify this year’s insurance renewal as approved by chief administrative officer Jim Pine.
The premium, which covers policies through McDougall Insurance Brokers and Marsh Insurance, is more than 29 per cent more than that of last year.
The total of $877,202 results from an increase of $199,436.
“I’m not happy about bringing this recommendation forward, and that is why we are, hopefully, working on retaining another quote,” treasurer Sue Horwood told committee members.
“We do not currently have communicable-disease coverage as it relates to long-term care and paramedics, so we are hoping to rectify some of this situation,” said Horwood.
“The risk is if we are sued then we will have to pay for the lawyers and defense – we will not be limited to a deductible,” she later added via e-mail.
She said the county’s problem stems from an inability to get full insurance coverage for the county’s housing properties.
“The provider was leaving that marketplace across Canada.”
Horwood said a non-profit organization, Toronto-based Housing Services Corp., will cover such properties.
“Basically you’re joining a pool, so you have to put money into the pool when you join,” Horwood said. “A lot of the increase is due to that.”
An exact amount wasn’t available Tuesday.
Horwood reported staff decided to sign renewal forms with the current brokers to maintain coverage. They retain the option of finding another price and cancelling current policies, she added, and it’s hoped another quote will be ready by March or April.
She also said she’s consulted other eastern Ontario municipal treasurers and found the issue is not unique to Hastings County, nor is it related to a specific broker.
“This is an industry-wide issue affecting insurance coverage for a number of sectors,” she wrote in her report to the committee. Other municipalities offering services similar to those of the county are reporting increases of 13 to 21 per cent, the treasurer added.
“They’ve all gone up a tremendous amount,” agreed committee chair Jo-Anne Albert. She’s the mayor of Tweed and county council’s delegate for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
Albert said she plans to raise the issue at next week’s association meeting.
Horwood said the association is also studying the impact of joint and several liability upon insurance rates. County politicians are among those who say municipalities are being targeted unfairly by civil lawsuits which they also charge are causing sky-high insurance premiums.
Centre Hastings Mayor Tom Deline asked if another government could provide some pandemic-specific funding to offset the cost of this year’s expected increase. Horwood said that would, if available, be limited to this year.
“I don’t believe this is going away this year. This is our new reality.
“We are going to have a problem with insurance,” she said.
She later said there were no clear pandemic-related factors behind the increase, but that insurers are asking “extra questions this year relating to the pandemic.
“We didn’t take going to another broker lightly, either, because this is a lot of work.”
County council will vote Jan. 28 on the issue.