August 1, 2020
Insurance storm paralyzes Canada
A cross-country look at plans to help snow and ice management pros face skyrocketing insurance premiums
Alberta and Saskatchewan“Starting in summer of 2019 we heard about insurance renewals coming back much higher than the previous year in relation to any snow work,” said Joel Beatson, Executive Director of Landscape Alberta and Landscape Saskatchewan. “This continued as a trend through fall of 2019 with many companies beginning to point at non-renewal terms or massive (800%) increases to premiums. Landscape Alberta held two town hall-style meetings in February of 2020 to help address the issue. We are working with partners including CNLA, Landscape Ontario, and Marsh Canada on many-faceted approaches. This will include government advocacy to limit liability for snow contractors, reducing the statutory reporting regulations on slip-and-falls and limiting liability to contractors and property managers. The plan also includes looking at improvements to the insurance models available to members and working on education for industry at all stages in the value chain. Covid-19 has been a serious speed bump in terms of progress, but we continue to look at all options to improve the prospects for being a profitable snow contractor in 2020.”
British ColumbiaThe snow and ice insurance market in B.C. is a great concern to the landscape sector,” explains Hedy Dyck, British Columbia Nursery Landscape Association (BCNLA) Executive Director. “Landscape companies offering snow removal services have experienced significant premium increases. Premiums for some companies have doubled since 2019. Fewer insurance companies are willing to write snow removal policies, limiting a contractor’s ability to shop for competitive quotes. Landscape businesses offering snow removal services are now performing cost analysis, and some have decided to stop offering snow removal for the 2020-2021 winter season. BCLNA is consulting with industry to navigate this issue and continues to monitor the conversations occurring on a national level.”
Manitoba“It’s a terrible situation,” said Matt Bell, a Director with the Manitoba Nursery Landscape Association (MBNLA). “My own company has seen significant jumps at renewal, to the point where snow makes up 60 per cent of our insurance costs while it is just 10 per cent of our business revenue. It’s an issue that MBNLA is looking at very closely and I expect it to be one of the priorities at our next board meeting.”
New Brunswick and P.E.I.“I have had calls last year from members whose increases remove all of the profit, or trigger a loss, or they cannot get insurance at all,” says Jim Landry, Executive Director of Landscape New Brunswick and Landscape P.E.I. “Five of us met last winter and all but one said insurance was their biggest problem for ice and snow.”
Newfoundland and Nova Scotia“We are certainly seeing rates increase out east,” Landscape Newfoundland and Landscape Nova Scotia Executive Director Christine Finn says. “While it isn’t an issue I have heard from a great deal from members, I would say that it is always a concern when costs are increasing. This is an issue we will be continuing to monitor going forward.”
Ontario“Insurance has quickly become a huge issue for many business owners in the landscape and horticulture profession,” explains Tony DiGiovanni, Executive Director of Landscape Ontario. “Everyone is facing large increases. Some members report insurance premium increases anywhere from 25 to 400 per cent. Some cannot obtain insurance at any cost. There are several reasons for these increases. Many insurance companies simply will not cover snow and ice operations — even if the business is profitable. This has happened in the past. Insurance markets fluctuate internationally, and we are currently in a very hard market where insurance companies are fleeing risky business. It also does not help when contingency lawyers proactively encourage the public to sue and insurance companies settle because it costs more to fight than to settle.
“Landscape Ontario’s Snow and Ice Management Sector Group is fighting this issue. One important effort is support of Bill 118, MPP Norm Miller’s bill to reduce the statute of limitations from two years to 10 days. Just before the Covid crisis hit, the Bill was scheduled to go before committee, but unfortunately, Covid postponed all normal legislative activity. Hopefully the process will be picked up as soon as government gets back to normal.
“LO also supports the Freshwater Roundtable Alliance, that is working to convince government the best way to protect our water resources from oversalting is to develop appropriate standards for snow and ice operations. The standards focus on reducing the use of salt, and provide liability protection to accredited contractors who employ those best practices. This model is patterned after one being used in New Hampshire.
“Through the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), LO has asked endorsed insurance broker Marsh to investigate the feasibility of developing our own insurance company. The idea is called Captive Insurance. The model may prevent members from being subjected to the ups and downs of the global market and give them control of standards and decisions on which claims to fight.
“A number of larger members are looking at developing a Self Insured Retention (SIR) program. This is similar to Captive Insurance, but without the formality of setting up an insurance company.