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Ride-sharing services including Uber and Lyft coming to B.C. in December 2017

Click to play video 'Uber is coming to Vancouver in time for Christmas holidays' Uber is coming to Vancouver in time for Christmas holidays
It's been a long time coming, but today the province announced ridesharing will happen in B.C. and it's expected services like Uber and Lyft will be up and running just in time for the holiday season. Grace Ke reports – Mar 8, 2017

The B.C. Minister of Transportation has announced ride-sharing services, including Uber and Lyft, will be offered in the province starting this holiday season.

“British Columbians have made it very clear that there is a demand for ride-sharing services,” Todd Stone told reporters Tuesday morning. “We know [they] want additional choice and convenience and that ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, present real opportunities to provide new services to consumers through the use of technology.”

Stone said they have taken a long time to make sure “they got it right” and he anticipates there will be “some concern” coming from the taxi industry about the announcement.

Uber in Vancouver: what you need to know 
Click to play video 'Uber in Vancouver: what you need to know' Uber in Vancouver: what you need to know
Uber in Vancouver: what you need to know – Mar 7, 2017

There has long been speculation that ride-sharing service Uber might be launching its operation in the province in the immediate future.

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Those rumours were fueled by a job posting put up by Uber in Vancouver last month, looking for an onboarding specialist, who would liaise with drivers and help brand the company.

Uber has been lobbying the B.C. government for years to allow its ride-sharing service to operate in the province. It is a discussion that has pitted the taxi industry against the provincial government.

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Click to play video 'Province announces changes to modernize B.C. taxi industry' Province announces changes to modernize B.C. taxi industry
Province announces changes to modernize B.C. taxi industry – Mar 7, 2017

But Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for TransLink, said they want the taxi industry to remain competitive and ensure a level playing field.

Stone said there will be a number of initiatives focused on strengthening the competitiveness of the taxi industry in B.C., including up to a million dollars from the provincial government to be made available to the existing industry. The money will provide the taxi industry access to enhanced technology, which, Fassbender says, is driving the change that the industry is facing.

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Fassbender says a new process will also be put in place to handle the insurance required for proper coverage of consumers of ride-sharing services as well as taxis.

WATCH: Todd Stone announces why ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft will be approved to operate in B.C
Click to play video 'B.C. will welcome ride-sharing services in December 2017' B.C. will welcome ride-sharing services in December 2017
B.C. will welcome ride-sharing services in December 2017 – Mar 7, 2017

“Taxi companies have been telling us that they are supportive of the entry of the ride-sharing services, as long as it is done in a fair manner that provides for a level playing field of all operators,” Stone said.

However, the transportation minister said there is still a lot of work and heavy-lifting, including necessary policy changes, to be done over the next nine months.

Vancouver is one of the last major Canadian cities to be getting ride-sharing services. Cities like Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton are already onboard.

“Many British Columbians find it somewhat odd that we are one of the last major metropolitan areas that does not yet have ride-sharing,” Stone said. “But again, we have taken the time and we are going to take a bit more time to make sure that we get it right.”

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READ MORE: Businesses tell B.C. government to put the pedal to the metal on Uber

In an emailed statement, Uber Canada told Global News, “From Vancouver to Victoria, Kelowna to Prince George, British Columbians want and need access to more safe, affordable, reliable transportation options across the province. Today’s announcement is a step forward by the provincial government, and we’re encouraging all parties in British Columbia to commit to bringing forward progressive regulations that embrace ride-sharing in 2017.”