Mike Smyth: Ride-hailing conflict? NDP MLA’s dad owns taxi licence

Premier John Horgan keeps saying ride-hailing services are finally coming to B.C. this fall.

But Uber and Lyft — the biggest ride-hailing companies — say the Horgan government is proposing ridiculous regulations that will block them from entering the market. In other words, it all looks like a big sham to keep Uber and Lyft out of B.C. to the great delight of the current taxi monopoly.

Now comes word that an NDP MLA on the legislature’s ride-hailing committee has a direct family link to the taxi business: His father owns a taxi licence!

Ravi Kahlon said Tuesday that his dad, Navroop, has owned a taxi in Victoria for 28 years. But Kahlon bizarrely said that shouldn’t disqualify him from membership on the committee, where the North Delta MLA recently grilled the vice-president of Uber at a public meeting.

“Would you feel comfortable letting your child get in a car with somebody who hasn’t done a national criminal-record check?” Kahlon asked Uber vice-president Michael van Hemmen in a shocking exchange last month.

The Liberals zeroed in on Kahlon on Tuesday, insisting he should step down from the committee, which is making recommendations on ride-hailing rules to the government.

“This is plain wrong,” said Jas Johal, who pointed out that the committee’s work could have a direct financial impact on Kahlon’s family. “This doesn’t pass the smell test. He should recuse himself.”

But Kahlon refused to step down, admitting he didn’t inform Transportation Minister Claire Trevena of his family connection to the taxi business.

“I don’t think I’m under any conflict of interest,” he said.

What planet is this guy living on? Apparently one where Uber and Lyft are the bad guys, and the taxi cartel maintains its hold on the market.

The NDP government has proposed a series of suffocating regulations on ride-hailing, including strict caps on the maximum number of ride-hailing vehicles allowed on the road. They also want taxi-style operational boundaries and government price controls.

It’s a barely concealed effort to keep Uber and Lyft out. But the NDP’s links to the taxi monopoly go even deeper. A local ride-hailing company called Kater has partnered with the Vancouver Taxi Association and says it likes the NDP’s ride-hailing regulations. (No kidding, if they keep Uber and Lyft out of the market!)

Here’s a familiar name working with Kater: Moe Sihota, the former NDP cabinet minister and party president. Johal said he went to a meeting at Kater’s Surrey office where Sihota led him through a PowerPoint presentation on the company.

“They were talking about keeping Uber and Lyft out,” Johal said.

I asked Kahlon if he had ever talked to Sihota about Kater. Kahlon said no, adding he had no idea Sihota was involved with the taxi-backed ride-hailing app.

Amazing! Just about everybody in the business knows Sihota’s Kater connections.

“I’m shocked by that,” Johal said.

Almost as shocking as Kahlon thinking he can remain on this ride-hailing committee when his dad owns a taxi. He should step down. Immediately.

msmyth@postmedia.com

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