B.C.’s Transportation Minister is defending the NDP’s plans to delay ride-hailing services like Uber until a new review is completed in the new year.
On Monday, the province announced that it had hired industry expert Dan Hara to consult with the taxi industry and craft a “made in B.C.” solution, with no implementation until at least next fall.
That news was met with frustration by many in Metro Vancouver, who have grown tired of waiting for transportation amid a taxi shortage.
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Prior to the election, the NDP pledged to implement new rules that would allow ride-hailing services in 2017 — a promise it is now backing away from.
That inspired fireworks in Question Period at the Legislature Tuesday, where Interim BC Liberal Leader Rich Coleman accused the NDP of flip flopping on its promise.
“This is your province Mr. Premier, you are the one in charge today, you’re the one who made the commitment to the province of British Columbia.”
The NDP in turn laid blame for the delays on the Liberals, whom they accused of doing zero groundwork on the file while they were in office.
“When we came to government in the middle of the summer we were committed to bringing in ride sharing on the assumption that they had done something in five years — as it turned out, they hadn’t,” Premier John Horgan shot back.
“We want to make sure that what we have here is working well, that passenger safety is paramount and that drivers can go about their business in the most productive and safe way,” Transportation Minister Claire Trevena told CKNW’s Jon McComb on Tuesday.
“Until we have done that, it really is not reasonable to be bringing in a whole new layer of services.”
The previous BC Liberal government had pledged to have ride-hailing services in place for this year’s busy holiday season.
That won’t be happening now, Trevena said, because implementing the service province-wide is simply too complex, involving the amendment of six pieces of legislation and working with both the Passenger Transportation Board and multiple municipalities.
Hara already produced one report on ride-hailing for the City of Vancouver back in 2015, which Trevena admits she has only “glanced at.”
Asked why the province isn’t working from that document, Trevena said it was too limited in its scope, but will form a part of the government’s larger study.
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“That report had no recommendations in it, it was looking at how to deal with the basic issues,” she said.
“We’re talking about Richmond, we’re talking about Burnaby, we’re talking about the Lower Mainland as well as the rest of the province. So I think we need to broaden it out beyond just Vancouver.”
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In a statement, Uber Canada said it is looking for a clarifications on whether the review’s terms of reference are aimed at enabling ride sharing, or just focused on taxis.
“It is important that every voice be heard including the general public and ridesharing companies which are not currently on the list of groups to be consulted,” it said.
Trevena said the review would be sensitive to concerns of the ride sharing industry, but acknowledged it will focus on the existing taxi industry.
She added that the industry considered the BC Liberals’ ride-hailing plan “destructive.”
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Asked if it was influenced in any way by political donations to the NDP from the taxi industry, Trevena called the suggestion “absurd.”
Instead, she said B.C. has only to look at London, England which recently revoked Uber’s license to operate over safety concerns as to why B.C. should take its time.
“It is not running smoothly everywhere. We want to make sure in B.C. we get a system that works for B.C.”
Trevena said $165,000 has been budgeted for the new review.
Level playing field
Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Roberston said it’s important to welcome new technologies and better services, Robertson said ride-sharing has been “a mess” for other cities.
“I think what we’ve called for at the city is a solution that’s a level playing field so that the taxi industry is dealing with the same terms and conditions as Uber or Lyft or any of those other companies.”
-With files from Liza Yuzda and Jeremy Lye