n 1981 the Company reopened a Vancouver, B.C. office after a 45-year absence. The Company's gross annual premium income was nearly $20 million. A staff of 85 at head office and 50 more across the country in regional offices made up the manpower roster. The Company had 650 independent agents working for it. Total payroll was well over $1 million.
Rates were increased as losses increased. Part of these losses were attributed to increased theft claims. The Company increased its deductible from $50 to $100 in Winnipeg but left the rural deductible unchanged. In other areas of the country, similar problems were occurring. Today, a claim of $50 can easily involve $125 in paperwork, including the adjuster's fee. The poor showing of the country's economy had also brought its weight to bear on The Portage Mutual in the early 80's.
By 1982, the Company had nearly $23½ million in gross premium income, roughly 17% more than 1981. As well, investment income rose nearly $380,000 or over 22% from the previous year. The Company is now the third largest multi-line company in Manitoba.
1982 saw the retirement of Bill Sherritt as Claims Manager, after being with the Company for over 30 years. His able successor is Al Collett, who has been an adjustor with The Portage Mutual since 1962.
Times certainly have changed at The Portage Mutual. The Company is currently introducing its automatic bank payment program under which a customer who wants to pay in regular installments authorizes the Company to make automatic withdrawals from the customer's bank account.
Surprisingly, although times have changed, many of the farmer's concerns are the same. One of the original farmer complaints when the Portage Mutual was established in the early 1880's, the railways and freight rates are still hotly debated topics 100 years later. An inquiry, hearings and debates have led the Liberal Government to the bold move of proposing changes to the historic 86-year Crow Rate. The railway must be adequately compensated for moving grain. Bill C-155, the Western Grain Transportation Act, is in the offing and will remove the ceiling on the statutory Crow Rate on prairie grain movement. Meanwhile, the government is still wrestling with what to do with the Crow benefits, some $651.6 million, once it is abolished. That's the subsidy the Federal Government will pay each year for the higher freight rates. The question is who gets the money? First it said, give it to the producer, then the railways and maybe a split between the two. Then there is the argument for 20% of the $651.6 million annual subsidy should go to the railways and 80% to the farmer.
Manitoba's population has gone from about three-quarters of a million in 1951 to about a million. The town of Portage has grown to over 13,000. Wheat prices have also taken a surge ahead. In 1973, the price for No.1CWRS wheat at Thunder Bay his $4.58 and by 1980 was over $6 per bushel.
It is now 1984 and The Portage Mutual is officially 100 years old. It feels like celebrating. A century of writing insurance has seen The Portage Mutual grow from its first hesitant years when a group of pioneers set out a plan for mutual protection to a national multi-line company with offices from coast to coast.
The Company's evolution is marked with tough valleys and high peaks in business. The seven founding fathers started with a commitment to protect farmers against the perils of fire and lightning. Today's Directors uphold that same spirit. But times have changed.
Although farm policies now account for only one-third of The Portage Mutual's business, it is to this one-third that it owes its history. But as times changed, the Company followed, keeping it alive and progressive. The Company has stood the test of time and is proud of its past.
As it closes the book on the past 100 years, The Portage Mutual Insurance Company looks forward to another century of "Mutual Service with Security."
To commemorate the purchase of the first truck in 1922, a Reo, and the unique part "The Windstorm Gang" played in the history of The Portage Mutual, the Company obtained and restored this 1938 Ford truck.
It has been, and is being used all around the Province, to celebrate the centennials of the communities that have supported the Company over its history.
Purchased from Brown and Lowry of Portage la Prairie by Jim McCartney of Longburn, it was later bought by Jim Fleming, who used it continuously on his farm until he retired a few years ago.