Days after Uber and Lyft launched in Vancouver — making Winnipeg the only major city in western Canada without the ridesharing apps — one city councillor is calling for changes that would allow the companies to hit the streets here, too.
Councillor Jeff Browatty (North Kildonan) says Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) regulations are keeping companies like Lyft and Uber from setting up shop in Winnipeg.
“Whether you’re in Los Angeles or New York, Grand Forks or Regina, you can find Uber and Lyft services in all those cities at this point,” he told Global News Monday.
“The fact that you can’t find it in a major city like Winnipeg is a drawback. What needs to happen is MPI needs to go back and adopt a different type of insurance product for the major ridesharing companies.
“It was done in B.C., it was done in Saskatchewan and that’s what MPI needs to do.”
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In Manitoba, drivers who want to work for a ridesharing company are required to purchase their own special insurance that allows them to pick up and deliver customers.
Manitoba Public Insurance offers individual packages that cover drivers during four separate time periods — weekdays, rush hour, overnight, and weekends — or drivers can purchase all four, and be covered 24/7, for around $200 a year, paid on top of their regular premiums.
While TappCarr and ReRyde have gone along with MPI’s structure, Lyft tells Global its what is keeping them out of Winnipeg, and Uber has previously said the same.
In a submission to the Public Utilities Board after Manitoba passed ridesharing legislation in 2017, Uber said it would avoid Winnipeg unless MPI offered a blanket, commercial policy.
But MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley it’s provincial legislation that’s keeping the public insurer from giving Lyft and Uber the type of coverage they’re looking for.
“We’ve had discussions internally, but at this point we’re still very satisfied that our model is working and it satisfies the needs of the people who are in the vehicle-for-hire business.”
Smiley said there’s around 1,700 ridesharing vehicles currently on the road in Manitoba.
Both Uber and Lyft tell Global News they are interested in operating in Winnipeg and are working with officials to try to come to an agreement.