4. SIGNIFICANT ACCOUNTING JUDGMENTS, ESTIMATES AND ASSUMPTIONS
The preparation of the Company’s consolidated financial statements in conformity with IFRS requires management to make judgments, estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, and the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities as at the reporting date and the reported amounts of revenues and expenses during the year. Actual results could differ from these estimates. Although some variability is inherent in these estimates, management believes that the amounts provided are reasonable. The most complex and significant judgments, estimates and assumptions used in preparing the Company’s consolidated financial statements are discussed below.
In the process of applying the Company’s accounting policies, management has made the following judgments, which have the most significant effect on the amounts recognized in the consolidated financial statements.
The Company has applied judgment in its assessment of control or significant influence over investees, of the identification of objective evidence of impairment for financial instruments, the recoverability and recognition of tax losses, the determination of CGUs, the evaluation of current obligations requiring provisions and the identification of the indicators of impairment for property and equipment, goodwill and intangible assets.
Estimates and assumptions
The key assumptions concerning the future and other key sources of estimation uncertainty at the reporting date, that have a significant risk of causing a material adjustment to the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities within the next financial year, are discussed below.
(a) Valuation of claim liabilities
The Company is required by applicable insurance laws, regulations and IFRS to establish liabilities for payment of claims and claims adjustment expenses that arise from the Company’s insurance products. These liabilities represent the expected ultimate cost to settle claims occurring prior to, but still outstanding as of, the reporting date. The Company establishes its claim liabilities by geographic region, product line, type and extent of coverage, and year of occurrence.
Claim liabilities fall into two categories: reserves for reported claims and provision for IBNR losses. Additionally, liabilities are held for claims adjustment expenses, which contain the estimated legal and other expenses expected to be incurred to finalize the settlement of the losses.
Determining the provision for unpaid claims and adjustment expenses and the related reinsurers’ share involves an assessment of the future development of claims. The estimates are principally based on the Company’s historical experience. Methods of estimation have been used that the Company believes produce reasonable results given current information. This process takes into account the consistency of the Company’s claim handling procedures, the amount of information available, the characteristics of the line of business from which the claim arises, and the delays in reporting claims. Claim liabilities include estimates subject to variability, which could be material. Changes to the estimates could result from future events such as receiving additional claim information, changes in judicial interpretation of contracts, or significant changes in severity or frequency of claims from past trends.
In general, the longer the term required for the settlement of a group of claims, the greater the potential for variability in the estimate. Any future changes in estimates would be reflected in the consolidated statement of comprehensive income in the year in which the change occurred. Note 8 contains additional analysis of the impact of the key assumptions on claim liabilities.
The principal assumptions made in establishing claim liabilities are best estimates. Claim liabilities have been discounted to reflect future investment income in accordance with Canadian accepted actuarial practice. The rate used to discount the claim liabilities is based on the fair value yield of the bond portfolio supporting the claim liabilities. To increase the likelihood that the claim liabilities are adequate to pay future benefits, margins for adverse deviation are required to be included for assumptions regarding future claims development, interest rates and reinsurance recoverables. The Canadian Institute of Actuaries recommends a range of appropriate margins for each of these variables. The combined effect of all the margins produces the PfAD.
Reinsurance recoverables include amounts for expected recoveries from reinsurers related to claim liabilities. Amounts recoverable from reinsurers are evaluated in a manner consistent with the provisions of the reinsurance contracts. The failure of reinsurers to honour their obligations could result in losses to the Company, as the ceding of insurance does not relieve the Company of its primary liability to its insured parties.
(b) Impairment of goodwill and intangible assets
The Company determines whether goodwill and intangible assets are impaired on an annual basis or more frequently if there are indicators of potential impairment. Impairment testing of goodwill and intangible assets requires an estimation of the recoverable amount of the CGUs to which the assets are allocated.
(c) Impairment of financial assets
The Company assesses its AFS financial instruments for objective evidence of impairment at each reporting date. Objective evidence of impairment includes a significant or prolonged decline in the fair value or net asset value below cost, or when a loss event that has a reliably estimable impact on the future cash flows of the financial instrument has occurred. Significance of the decline is evaluated against the original cost of the investment and prolonged against the period in which the fair value has been below its original cost. The determination of what is significant or prolonged requires judgment. In making this judgment, the Company evaluates, among other factors, a decline in current financial position; defaults on debt obligations; failure to meet debt covenants; significant downgrades in credit status; and severity and/or duration of the decline in value.
(d) Control or significant influence over investees
The Company presumes that control or significant influence over an investee is evidenced primarily by the ownership percentage held of the investee unless there are other factors which indicate the level of control is not aligned with the ownership percentage. Currently there are no material investments in investees for which the assessment of control or significant influence is not aligned with the ownership percentage.
(e) Valuation of post-employment benefits obligation
The projected cost of defined benefit pension plans and other non-pension future benefits is determined using actuarial valuations performed by external pension actuaries. No estimation is required for the defined contribution pension plan given the plan structure. The actuarial valuation involves making assumptions about discount rates, future salary increases, mortality rate, expected health care costs, inflation and future pension increases. The details of the assumptions are disclosed in note 17. Due to the long-term nature of these plans, such estimates are subject to significant uncertainty. Actual experience that differs from the assumptions will affect the amounts of the benefit obligation recognized in the consolidated balance sheet, the expense recognized in net (loss) income and actuarial gains or losses recognized in OCI in the consolidated statement of comprehensive income.
Provisions are recognized when the Company determines that there is a present legal or constructive obligation as a result of a past event or decision, it is more likely than not that an outflow of resources will be required to settle the obligation and the amount can be reliably estimated. Provisions are recorded at the present value of the expenditures expected to be required to settle the obligation. In estimating provisions, the Company must make assumptions regarding the timing and amount of the expenditures and determine an appropriate discount rate reflective of the current market assessment of the time value of money and the risks specific to the obligations.
(g) Measurement of income taxes
The Company is subject to income tax laws in various federal and provincial jurisdictions where it operates. Various tax laws are potentially subject to different interpretations by the taxpayer and the relevant tax authority. To the extent that the Company’s interpretations differ from those of tax authorities or the timing of realization is not as expected, the provision for income taxes may increase or decrease in future periods to reflect actual experience. The Company maintains provisions for uncertain tax positions that it believes appropriately reflect the risk of tax positions under discussion, audit dispute or appeal with tax authorities or which are otherwise considered to involve uncertainty.