Regulator silent on when ridesharing applications will be approved in B.C.

Premier John Horgan holds his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) has not answered any questions since December on when ridesharing companies should be expect to hear about applications to operate in British Columbia.

The PTB has been reviewing applications since September and has only ruled on two. The independent board is still looking at 22 other applications including Lyft and Uber, the world’s largest ridesharing companies.

After requesting a statement for a week on a renewed timeline, the PTB provided a response to Global News.

“It would be inappropriate for the Board Chair to comment on, or participate in an interview regarding the ride hailing applications currently before the Board,” the statement reads.

“The Board is working towards issuing decisions on ride hailing applications as expeditiously as possible. The review process is taking time because of the large number of applications that have been filed and the significant volume of materials involved.”

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To date the board has provided only one other statement to the media about timing of application approvals.

READ MORE: First rideshare company approved to operate in B.C., Lyft and Uber still waiting for decision

“The board continues to anticipate that the first decisions on ride hailing applications will be issued sometime towards the end of 2019. We have no new information to share at this time,” the statement from Dec. 4 reads.

The B.C. government promised to have ridesharing on the road by Dec. 31, 2019. So far only Whistle Ride has been approved, an app set to work in Tofino and Whistler by February.

When Premier John Horgan was asked specifically on a new timeline for ridesharing he acknowledged he no longer has the control over when the service will be available.

WATCH (aired December 17, 2019): B.C. ride-hailing labour fight

Click to play video: 'B.C. ride-hailing labour fight' B.C. ride-hailing labour fight
B.C. ride-hailing labour fight – Dec 17, 2019

“I will direct you to the transportation board who are independent and are in charge with making that decision. I will also provide my personal view that I was hopeful that this would have been resolved before I came back to stand before you,” Horgan said.

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“I’ll hold them accountable by saying I wish it had been done before today, and I’m hopeful it will be done soon.”

The board is made up of six full-time employees and six board members. Three of the board members were appointed by a previous Liberal government and three were appointed by the current government.

WATCH (aired December 16, 2019): First rideshare company approved to operate in B.C.

Click to play video: 'First rideshare company approved to operate in B.C.' First rideshare company approved to operate in B.C.
First rideshare company approved to operate in B.C – Dec 16, 2019

“The PT Board is responsible for making decisions on applications for Special Authorizations and the Registrar is responsible for making decisions on applications for a General Authorization,” the board’s website reads.

“The PT Board approves and set terms and conditions for a Special Authorization if an application is approved. If the Registrar is satisfied that safety requirements are met, a licence will be issued.”

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But the BC Liberals say the fact the province handed over the responsibility to the board without any clear timelines is a failure of the government’s behalf.

“The NDP set up the process, they gave this to the NDP, for them now to complain about the very process they set up is offensive which assumes British Columbians are stupid,” BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal said.

“The premier promised ridesharing would be here by end of year 2017, end of year by 2018, Thanksgiving 2019, Halloween 2019 and then end of year 2019 and here we are we have no road map on when ridesharing will be here for a majority of B.C. The fact [is] media and the public can’t get any information from the PTB.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board to issue ride-hail licences in ‘late’ 2019

The PTB has also been asked to consider the Labour Relations Board conversation with Uber and Lyft about employee classifications.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union has asked for a ruling about whether the major ridesharing companies are following B.C. labour law by making drivers contractors and not employees.

Horgan says he has done some ‘nudging’ of the PTB while acknowledging the independence.

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“I think it’s better to have it done correctly and making sure we’re protecting the travelling public, making sure that the workers that are hired to do this work are not just trained but are also safe, and are being paid a fair wage, and all of the things that people would want to see in an emerging industry coming to B.C.,” Horgan said.

“We’ve made it clear, the minister corresponded after an initial discussion back in the fall to lay out, once again, our expectations.”

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