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Pier Park fire and global issues impacting New Westminster’s insurance costs

Budget 2022
The Westminster Pier Park is among the issues affecting insurance costs for the City of New Westminster. Photo by Rick Fabbro

The Westminster Pier Park fire and global issues are taking their toll on the City of New Westminster’s insurance costs.

A staff report on the proposed 2022 budget stated the city would see a $1.5-million or about a 1.6% increase to its insurance premiums.

“That $1.5 million on insurance costs, that’s a pretty good hit for one item,” said Coun. Jaimie McEvoy. “Can you explain that to us a little bit? The follow-up question, of course, will be: is it possible to look at options on our insurance costs.”

Finance director Harji Varn said staff alerted council in August to impending increases to insurance costs.

“This is at a global level that it’s going up,” she told council at a Nov. 1 budget workshop. “And also, for the city of New West in particular, insurers are looking at our recent events, like the Westminster Pier fire and also the age of our city. That’s also another contributing factor to driving up the insurance.”

According to a staff report, the insurance market is facing many challenges and is addressing them through increased premiums, which is making it difficult to find companies to insure the city.

“World events, such as the Fort McMurray fire or the floods and fires throughout the world, has direct impact on the premiums the city pays,” said the report. “Insurance companies are also changing how they evaluate risk, with more emphasis on past history of the insured. This has had impact on the premiums as well, as insurers are more strategic on who they insure, and events such as the Westminster Pier fire add to this challenge.”

Varn said city staff will be looking at best practices, what other municipalities are doing and different insurance opportunities, such as self-insurance. She said that work will start in early 2022, before the next insurance policy renewal.

Mayor Jonathan Cote said he’s looking forward to having a more comprehensive discussion about insurance costs and what the city can do to mitigate those costs, whether it’s looking at its coverage, self-insurance options or other carriers.

“Obviously, the city needs insurance, we need to protect ourselves,” he said. “But I think we need to have a more thorough discussion, obviously given some of the cost pressures that are very significant in this particular budget.”