In its almost 94 years of existence, the Capreol Curling Club has never submitted an insurance claim.
That’s why the club’s volunteers were shocked when their insurance premium skyrocketed in December to almost $24,000 under Wawanesa Insurance, and the club has been left with more questions than answers.
Club president Susanne Aylward said she has been dealing with the insurance issue for months, and has since secured a much less costly policy through Greg Cantin of The Co-operators here in Greater Sudbury.
However, those few months were fraught with frustration as she was met with roadblocks in her attempt to find out why the club’s premiums increased by 150 per cent.
“We've never had a claim,” she said. “(This is) a solid block curling club with brick on the outside. There are no windows, we have steel doors, and it's just well built.”
Aylward said the club’s insurance underwriter had changed several times over the past few years. Prior to Wawanesa Insurance, it was The Travelers Companies that provided coverage.
“Three years ago, we had Travelers insurance, and our premium was under $6,000,” Aylward said. “Last year, we switched to another broker, BrokerLink, and they found us insurance through Wawanesa, who increased our premium by more than $3,000.”
That was before their policy lapsed, she said. When it came time to renew the policy, that’s when the club was hit with an almost $24,000 premium.
“On Christmas Eve day, I got a letter from our broker saying our policy is going to be increased to $22,426,” she said.
Aylward said she was advised by the club’s broker that they had attempted to get a hold of the club to inform them of the increase, but was never able to connect. By the time it was brought to Aylward’s attention, the club’s policy had lapsed, and they had no choice but to pay the premium, “otherwise we would have no insurance,” she said.
Having been the president for the past six years and having already spent a lot of money on repairs — the club’s chiller, brine pump and air-conditioning unit have all had to be replaced, and now the club’s furnace in the basement needs to be replaced — Aylward was not about to take the increase sitting down.
She filed complaints with Ontario’s ombudsman, as well as the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario. However, those complaints fell short, as she was stalled in the process.
“I tried to go through the ombudsman to try and get a valid reason for the increase,” she said.
She was told curling clubs have been undercharged for years, but there was no “definite” answer coming.
Wawanesa Insurance told Sudbury.com in an email that it is always willing to work with its customers “to make sure our premiums accurately reflect the property being insured,” said a spokesperson.
“We encourage people to work closely with their independent insurance broker to understand their premiums and to make sure they are getting the right coverage. Insurance brokers are licensed insurance experts and are in the best position to help people and organizations get appropriate insurance coverage.
“With regard to curling rinks in general, many facilities currently face a series of factors that increase their level of risk, specifically aging infrastructure risks, fire risks, as well as risks associated with extreme weather and climate change. Taken together, these factors impact premiums.
“We are working closely with brokers in the Sudbury area to make sure our mutual customers understand any changes to their premiums.”
She took matters into her own hands and started cold-calling insurance companies in Sudbury for quotes. That’s where Greg Cantin and The Co-operators come in.
“I was just lucky, but I had to be on it for two and a half months,” she said. “I lived and breathed this.”
Aylward also reached out to Nickel Belt MP France Gélinas, who visited the curling club on March 11 to show her support.
Gélinas addressed the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on March 9, prior to her visit, calling on the minister of finance to “rein in those astronomical increases.”
“(This club) is a pillar of a small community, and it’s a well-loved club,” Gélinas said. “The minister of finance has tools at his disposal to rein in those astronomical increases, and he needs to step in before those not-for-profit organizations close their doors permanently.”
Skyrocketing insurance premiums seem to be the norm for curling clubs across not only Sudbury, but the entire country
Numerous curling clubs across the country are facing similar insurance increases, said Danny Lamoureux, executive director, Curler Experience and Curling Club Development. Curl Canada became aware of the insurance issue about a year ago when clubs started complaining about their premiums increasing, he said.
“We're advocating on their behalf with the underwriters in various cases, and we're trying to work with them to help them have a conversation with their local insurance guy and find out what the heck is going on,” said
It was a hectic season, and now that it’s winding down, Curling Canada can really start focusing on this issue, he said.
“We haven't really jumped into it heavily at this point, only because it's been a crazy winter with COVID-19 and lockdowns, he said. “But it's certainly something that's on our agenda now, and we're going to start asking some questions.”
There are 950 affiliated curling clubs across Canada, and probably another 200 that aren't affiliated with Curl Canada, he said.
The majority of clubs seeing these types of increases are in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, he said. “I haven't heard from too many clubs in the prairies that are concerned, but we haven’t interviewed every club, either.”
Curl Sudbury saw an increase in their premiums of about $7,000 over two years, said Tom Leonard, manager and chief ice technician, Curl Sudbury. The club currently pays about $15,000 a year for insurance.
While the club was surprised to be hit with an increase the first year, it was better prepared for another increase coming down the line.
“Where’s the justification,” he said. “It’s not like we have claims year after year. I don’t get it. I’ve been in the business since the’90s, and I’ve never seen it like this before.
“If there's a small curling club that is just getting by with membership fees, and they struggle with creating other revenue, this could certainly have an impact whether they open or not.”
Greg Cantin is an insurance broker with The Co-operators in Sudbury.
“I can't speak as to what the rationale is of the rate increase, but it was dramatic,” Cantin said.
He called the Capreol Curling Club an insurance company’s dream.
“We're talking about a concrete block building, a steel roof, and everything is updated,” he said. “There are sprinklers in there. From a property standpoint, it really doesn't get a whole lot better than a noncombustible building.”
When Aylward came seeking a quote from him, he knew exactly how to help.
“We have a program called Community Garden, and it is designed for non-profits and charitable organizations,” said Cantin. “The Capreol Curling Club is a perfect fit, because they're a registered non-profit corporation. Inside that program, we have an appetite for curling clubs.”
While Capreol is the only curling club he currently insures under that program, he does have two more quotes pending. He only became aware of the situation in January, and is more than happy to help any other curling club.
“This is a unique opportunity for us, it's a good opportunity,” he said. “We have a dedicated underwriting department for this program. The only catch is that we probably can't underwrite every single club that comes to us. Someone might come to me with a curling club in the middle of nowhere. It's 120 years old, and it's made of frame, the rates are going to be different”
Cantin has a long history with curling, which is another reason he is willing to help them with their insurance issues.