Uber says Class 4 license requirement would be a barrier to offering safe rides in HRM

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WATCH: Halifax council is paving the way for ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate here. But as Jesse Thomas reports, there’s concern the services won't come to Halifax at all if council imposes too many rules – Jan 15, 2020

Halifax council is paving the way forward for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate here in the municipality, but the final regulations and bylaws still need to be ironed out.

Ride-share company Uber said if the province forced potential drivers to operate under a Class 4 license, then it would create a barrier to operating in Halifax and across the municipality.

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said, Class 4 creates a barrier to providing safe rides, and that this is why provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan all allow taxi and ride-sharing drivers to operate under a standard drivers license, as long as they fulfill the strict safety criteria.

READ MORE: Advocacy group wants to see Uber, Lyft in Halifax by Canada Day

“Requiring Class 4 licenses is a significant barrier to entry for drivers as this type of license is unrelated to driving for rideshare and intended for driving smaller buses and ambulances,” said Uber in a statement to Global News.  “This means fewer people will become rideshare drivers, and those who do pursue it may face delays.”

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On Tuesday, Halifax council voted to direct city staff to proceed with writing a bylaw that regulates and allows ride-hailing services in the HRM.

Council has been wrestling with the idea to allow ride-sharing services and wants to make sure they have the right regulations in place to ensure the taxi companies are treated fairly and that proper public safety issues are addressed.

“The city has done its work, we have a framework, and we have direction from council to prepare the bylaw and we will bring that back for final ratification and away we go,” said CAO Jaques Dubé.

READ MORE: Halifax one step closer to getting ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft

It’s clear that people of HRM want a rideshare option, according to a survey conducted in 2018 by the municipality that saw 88 per cent of respondents say they were in favour of companies like Uber and Lyft operating here. It’s also something Dubé said the municipality has always been on board with–it’s just a matter of putting the right regulations in place.

“We’re excited for the fact that we can potentially have in our view scape a different transportation option for people,” said Dubé.

Dartmouth Centre Coun. Sam Austin’s main concern in passenger safety and wants to see some level of municipal control over who’s behind the wheel of these ridesharing vehicles.

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“We could be setting ourselves up for a situation where we suspend a cab driver for whatever reason, and the very next day they become an uber driver and they are back out driving a vehicle in the city after we suspended them,” said Austin.

Council voted against a recommendation, directing mayor Mike Savage to write the province, seeking ride-hail drivers hold a Class 4 license, opting to let the province decide that fate.

READ MORE: Expect ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft to be operating in Halifax next summer

This move disappointed Hammonds Plains-St. Margaret’s coun. Matt Whitman who has traveled to Toronto to meet with Uber Staff and says Uber and Lyft won’t operate here under a Class 4.

“It’s not a maybe, it’s a for sure, so yesterday was frustrating because we’ve basically put a nail in the coffin, unless our friends down the hill at Province House do the right thing and make this a Class 5 drivers license like you and I have,” said Whitman. “If not, Uber and Lyft won’t be coming to Halifax.”

Halifax South coun. Waye Mason disagrees with Whitman and says he’s in favour of the Class 4 license, which is also required for taxi drivers to operate in the HRM.

“That’s a great line for the councilor (Whitman) to throw out there to get some media,” said Mason. “But the fact is that council can’t decide to change the law around licensing. All we did was decide to not write a letter to the province saying which way we want it to go.”

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Mason made an amendment that council passed, to have an administrative fee system put in place, that would charge large companies pay a $25 thousand fee, while smaller or local startups would pay lesser fee’s on a per driver scale.

HRM is asking the province to allow the municipality to collect a percentage of rideshare fees, to go towards its accessible transportation fund.

CAO Jaques Dubé says he anticipates ride hailing services should be in place this summer.

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