NDP government introduces ride-hailing legislation

VICTORIA – B.C.’s NDP government has tabled legislation to allow ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in the province, but not until late 2019 at the earliest.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said Monday the legislation sets “a well balanced regulatory framework.” But it means the Insurance Corporation of B.C. won’t be ready to offer insurance for ride-hailing companies until “fall of 2019.”

The late 2019 timeline means the NDP remains two years behind the date it first promised voters in the last election.

The legislation removes the power for municipal governments to set borders and cap licenses for taxis and ride-hailing vehicles, though it’s unclear what that immediately means for existing companies. Currently, Vancouver has the most active municipal process on taxi licensing, while some municipalities have none.

Local governments will still have power over street and traffic bylaws, including allowing street hails and taxi stand locations.

A report earlier this year by taxi expert Dan Hara recommended government sort out the confusing jurisdiction landscape between municipalities, the province and the independent regulator – the Passenger Transportation Board – on licensing.

The legislation also boosts the power of the Passenger Transportation Board to consider the operating areas and numbers of taxis and ride-hailing vehicles.

The government will also require ride-hailing drivers to obtain commercial class four licences, and undergo mandatory criminal record checks. Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft had asked government to simply require standard class five licences, arguing that drivers are flexible part-time operators and not commercial operators.

The legislation also proposes per-trip fees to help sustain accessible taxis

The ride-hailing sector, including Uber and Lyft, has been aggressively lobbying the government since 2016 to try and get ride-hailing approved.

The companies have called for a government framework that would set per-kilometre insurance packages, allow standard class five driver licences instead of current commercial requirements, remove municipal boundaries and caps on vehicles, allow for surge pricing flexibility and streamline the licensing approval process.

Monday’s legislation gives some the companies some, but not all, of what they requested.

The legislation is another step in the slow rollout of ride-hailing in B.C.

The NDP campaigned in the last election on having a plan to get ride-hailing into operation in 2017. But after taking power, the party pushed ride-hailing to the end of 2018, and then in mid-2018 delayed again until late 2019. Premier John Horgan told reporters this month that, despite initial optimism, the ride-hailing legislation has proven more complicated than he’d expected.

The NDP promised in the last election to protect the traditional taxi industry from job losses and disruption caused by ride-hailing services. Taxi owners and drivers rallied behind the New Democrats and helped the party win key ridings in Metro Vancouver area such as Surrey.

Since then, the NDP appears to have struggled in plotting a path that will please everyone.

But since then, the party’s slow pace in plotting a path to please all sides has attracted criticism by the business, tourism and restaurant sectors who say Vancouver has fallen behind other major North American cities by not allowing Uber, Lyft and other services to operate.

More to come…





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