HALIFAX - Premier Darrell Dexter has reaffirmed his commitment to scrap the province's $2,500 cap on insurance awards for those who suffer minor injuries in auto accidents.
Dexter, in Copenhagen for the UN climate change talks, was responding to a report Thursday that suggested his NDP government was backing away from a previous commitment.
The Halifax Chronicle Herald quoted Finance Minister Graham Steele as saying the cap could be raised rather than scrapped.
But the premier said that wasn't an option, but he won't make any decisions until he reviews a discussion paper on the topic later this month.
"The $2,500 cap will not be in place after the review," he said during a conference call with reporters.
Asked to clarify the government's position, Dexter's press secretary said Steele had only said there would be a review of the legislation before any changes are made.
"Our understanding is that the finance minister said there is going to be a review, which includes the insurance cap, and we are going to explore other avenues to better serve the insurance needs of Nova Scotians," Jennifer Stewart said in an email.
Dexter went on to say the cap is unfair because the province's existing legislation offers a broad definition of what constitutes a minor injury. That means some people injured in auto accidents have received only $2,500 in compensation for pain and suffering even though they have suffered serious injuries.
"The $2,500 cap is not fair to people who have suffered serious injury," he said.
"Insurance is a product designed to protect people. If you exclude people from protection through a $2,500 cap, then by definition you're not delivering the product that has been paid for."
The premier said a number of options remain on the table, including introducing a system that would allow insurance companies to deduct a certain amount from court-ordered awards for injuries.
He said such a system would allow more people to seek compensation for non-monetary damages, but it would also protect insurance companies from costly court battles over minor injuries.
The legislation was introduced in 2003 after the Conservative government led by John Hamm promised during an election campaign to reduce insurance premiums by 20 per cent.
At the time, premiums in Nova Scotia were among the highest in the country as insurance companies complained about having to pay out large awards for so-called soft-tissue injury claims.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada has repeatedly stated that the existing cap has helped to bring down premiums by 27 per cent since 2003, and that rates have remained stable ever since.
Tinkering with the system could lead to instability, increased costs and higher premiums, the organization says.