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Politics

Committee looking at ridesharing to report back to legislature by month’s end

The public will soon find out what the province plans on doing about ridesharing. Richard Zussman reports on one of the most contentious issues: the requirement for drivers to have a Class 4 licence.

The legislative committee looking into the future of ridesharing in British Columbia has wrapped up its work.

Committee chair Bowinn Ma says the plan is to report to the legislature and release the report publicly by the end of March.

The committee was asked to put forward recommendations to Transportation Minister Claire Trevena on how to implement ridesharing in the province.

The committee, made up of four NDP MLAs, four Liberals and one Green, was tasked with looking at four specific issues.

READ MORE: Ridesharing app Kater offering big bonuses for new drivers as it struggles to launch

The recommendations will include what should be done about regional boundaries, the number of ridesharing vehicles allowed to operate, the flexibility of pricing and the class of licence required for a ridesharing driver.

“The committee represents a wide variety of opinions and perspectives and at the end of the day I believe we had very good discussions about the issues,” Ma said.

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“This is actually a committee that was brought together in 2018 and was brought back in 2019 to investigate questions around the last remaining pieces that government hasn’t figured out yet.”

READ MORE: Competition Bureau urges B.C. to ‘level the playing field’ for taxis and ridesharing companies

A majority of the committee, the Greens’ Adam Olsen and the four Liberals, have been concerned about the requirement of drivers to have a Class 4 licence.

A Class 4 licence is a commercial licence that can be used to drive buses with a maximum seating capacity of 25 persons, drive taxis and limousines and drive ambulances, on top of driving any Class 5 licence.

To get a Class 4 licence drivers must pay additional fees and get tested. All taxi drivers in British Columbia are currently required to have a Class 4 licence.

WATCH (aired March 8): Taxi association ridesharing service hits roadblock

Taxi association ridesharing service hits roadblock
Taxi association ridesharing service hits roadblock

In a statement to Global News, the province said it is still committed to introducing ridesharing in the fall, and defended the Class 4 licence requirement.

“When people use taxis or ridesharing services they need to know the driver has a clean record and their ride is safe,” a spokesperson with the Ministry of Transportation said.

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WATCH (aired January 28): Impatience is growing over lack of ridesharing in B.C.

Impatience is growing over lack of ridesharing in B.C.
Impatience is growing over lack of ridesharing in B.C.

But Green Party MLA Adam Olsen argued that ridesharing can still be safe even without the Class 4 designation.

“What is important is that we are protecting British Columbians. Where there is discussion is whether there is one class of licence or another class of licence that better protects British Columbians. I think what is important is to focus on providing a safe transportation option,” said Olsen.

“It’s a bit of a distraction from ensuring that British Columbians are safe.”

Major ridesharing companies Lyft and Uber raised concerns to the committee about the licence restrictions.

One of the concerns with Class 4 is that casual drivers will not take the time or spend the money to get the new licence.

READ MORE: Companies like Uber and Lyft on track to apply to Passenger Transportation Board

One solution the Liberals have put forward is to allow ridesharing drivers to drive with a Class 5 licence but have a criminal background check, be flagged if they have driving convictions and require mechanical checks of the vehicle.

“Lyft has already said if boundaries are brought in, along with Class 4, it would be very difficult to enter the Lower Mainland market.

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Ultimately you want competition so you can decide who to hire and who succeeds based on pricing and service,” Liberal MLA Jas Johal said.

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