The B.C. government has introduced long-awaited legislation that allows for ridesharing companies to operate in the province. But there are still questions about how companies like Uber and Lyft will be able to operate in B.C.
The legislation, introduced on Monday, provides more authority to the province’s Passenger Transportation Board. The independent tribunal will be expanded to determine rates charged to passengers and the operating areas for taxis and ride-hailing companies.
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If passed, the province says the new rules will allow for ridesharing companies to operate in the province by the fall of 2019.
“This is milestone legislation that gets ride-hailing right for B.C.,” B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said. “British Columbians absolutely want more options and flexibility in how they get around, but with checks in place to make sure their ride is a safe one.”
One of the challenges with the current rules is that taxi companies can only pick up in certain municipalities, which has led drivers to dropping off passengers in some areas where they cannot pick up passengers.
WATCH: B.C. transportation minister announces ridesharing coming fall 2019
The legislation, once passed, allows for the Passenger Transportation Board to amend licences to allow companies to operate in various regions. The existing taxi companies would have to apply for an amendment and the board would make a decision based on demand.
Ride-hailing companies are expected to apply to operate in all regions. A new, legislative committee will review these changes as regulations are put in place.
WATCH: When will ICBC be ready for ridesharing?
ICBC will now begin developing an insurance package needed to facilitate ride-hailing services.
“ICBC is dealing with what has been described as a dumpster fire. It’s priorities has been to fix the problems it has been facing,” said Trevena.
“It is now turning it’s attention to this. It needed this legislation before it could move.”
The legislation will require all drivers to get a Class 4 passenger licence and undergo regular criminal checks.
The public insurer says it will be increasing capacity to accommodate the expected future increase in road testing volumes. In order to deal with the current road testing wait times, the public insurer has already started to recruit additional driver examiners – up to 18 – who will be placed throughout B.C. to support all classes of testing.
“ICBC has been working with government on constructing an insurance approach that fits the ride-hailing industry model and has been working toward government’s fall 2019 timeline. That work has resulted in the legislation that was tabled on November 19th,” ICBC spokesperson Joanna Linsangan said in a statement.
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The province is also making a change to penalties increasing max fine for driver without the proper license from $1,500 to a maximum of $50,000.
“Safety is number one. It has to be. If you are going to be earning money driving people you need to make that investment. It has stricter limits. Any one getting into the car wants to know the driver is as safe as possible,” said Trevena.
BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says this has been a ‘bungled introduction’ of new ridesharing legislation. Wilkinson says the rules and regulations introduced will make it almost impossible for ridesharing to exist in British Columbia.
WATCH HERE: B.C. transportation minister announces ridesharing coming fall 2019
“What they have set up is a cumbersome, government run bureaucracy for something that should be determined by public demand,” said Wilkinson.
Uber Canada says they are looking for a model that will allow as many people as possible to drive safely. Some of the concerns the company has is around caps on the number of cars on the road and the long delays to get to this point.
“British Columbians want the same ridesharing services available in Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna that they have tried in Seattle, Toronto and Bellingham,” Uber’s Michael van Hemmen said. “Today’s legislation is a step forward but it still raises a lot of questions about when that will be possible and if that will be possible.”
WATCH HERE (aired July 19): Ridesharing not coming to B.C. until fall 2019
TappCar, Canada’s third largest rideshare company, says they are happy about the strict penalties and tougher license rules.
“Safety is a core value for TappCar. In any market we seek to operate in, we look for comprehensive safety rules and regulations to be in place. To that end, this legislation is a home run for drivers and passengers,” TappCar spokesperson Pascal Ryffel said. “We look forward to seeing consumers in British Columbia municipalities gain access to safe, reliable and affordable rideshare choice soon.”
The B.C. Federation of Labour says it is disappointed that ride-hailing legislation ‘offers little to promote good-paying, stable jobs and fails to establish protections for workers’ from companies like Uber and Lyft.
“We appreciate the goal of the bill is to expand transportation options and focus on passenger safety,” BCFED President Irene Lanzinger said.
“Ride-hailing enterprises like Uber helped invent the gig economy, where jobs are designed to be precarious, unstable, and mostly low-paying. Workers need a level playing field and more clout to deal with rich and powerful companies.”