Surrey, B.C. mayor doubles down on Uber crackdown, says company ‘operating illegally’

Click to play video: 'Surrey’s mayor still promising to crack down on ride-hailing operators'
Surrey’s mayor still promising to crack down on ride-hailing operators
WATCH: Surrey's mayor still promising to crack down on ride-hailing operators – Jan 27, 2020

Surrey’s mayor is not backing down on his pledge to crack down against Uber in his city.

Mayor Doug McCallum confirmed at a Monday press conference that city bylaw officers had been out over the weekend handing out warnings to Uber drivers active in his city without a municipal business licence.

Eighteen such warnings were handed out to drivers, along with 18 $500 fines to Uber itself.

McCallum said the warning period is now over, and that drivers operating in the city are at risk of being fined themselves.

“The fact is a business licence is required for companies to operate in Surrey or any other municipality in the Lower Mainland,” said McCallum.

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“Until that happens, Uber is operating illegally in Surrey.”

McCallum issued Uber a warning to cease services in the city on Friday, which the company rejected.

On Monday, the company said it had the right to operate in the area and would not stop.

“It is highly unfortunate that the Mayor is threatening drivers with fines that have no legal basis,” said Uber in a statement.

“The Uber app will continue to be available to the residents and visitors of Surrey within our service area, and we will be preparing legal action to defend the right to access Uber’s apps.”

Click to play video: 'Political Panel: Surrey battles ride-hailing companies'
Political Panel: Surrey battles ride-hailing companies

McCallum’s plans now put him in opposition to the province.

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“Municipalities have the ability to set requirements for business licences for ride-hail operators,” said the Ministry of Transportation in a statement.

“But our legislation is clear: no municipality has the authority to block the operation of ride-hailing services.”

But Surrey appears unwilling to issue any municipal licences in the short term.

McCallum said ride-hailing companies can apply for the same business licences as taxis, but when questioned about whether the city would actually grant any, he said no.

“There’s a couple meetings that we have to go through first,” said McCallum.

Click to play video: 'Surrey threatens to fine ride-hailing drivers found operating in the city'
Surrey threatens to fine ride-hailing drivers found operating in the city

“We have to wait for council to make the decision,” he added, though said it was not on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting.

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Metro Vancouver is currently working to develop a single, regional ride-hailing business licence, and McCallum also suggested the issue needed to be heard at the next TransLink Mayors’ Council meeting before things would move forward in Surrey.

McCallum denied that he was acting on behalf of the taxi lobby, saying instead that he was looking out for taxi workers, many of whom live in Surrey.

He said the current system of regulation, which does not put a cap on ride-hailing fleet sizes and includes larger zones of operation than taxis, is unfair.

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