B.C. Premier John Horgan has told Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum to back down from attempting to stop ride-hailing companies from operating in the city.
“I think the way forward for Surrey and for Mr. McCallum is to listen to the citizens of his community who want to competition,” Horgan said.
“Not to destabilize and put people out of business but to provide a range of options for the travelling public.”
Speaking for the first time publicly since ride-hailing hit the road in British Columbia, Horgan said the rules are clear: municipalities cannot block companies from operating.
McCallum told reporters on Monday that by-law officers would be issuing fines of $500 to ride-hailing drivers picking up in the community. So far Uber is the only company that has decided to operate in Surrey.
The world’s largest ride-hailing company filed for an injunction with the Supreme Court of British Columbia on Tuesday to stop the City of Surrey from issuing what the company calls “illegal tickets.”
“The city’s actions are unfair to local residents who want to earn money and support their families. It is also unfair to those who need a safe, affordable and reliable ride,” Uber’s head of western Canada Michael van Hemmen said.
“Our preference is to work collaboratively with municipalities, and we are doing so across the region. However, Uber must stand up when drivers and riders are being bullied and intimidated, especially when the province has confirmed drivers have the legal right to use Uber’s app, and to earn money driving with the app.”
Uber says the injunction application is based on the fact Surrey does not have the authority to prevent ride-hailing companies from operating in the municipality.
The suit also contends McCallum has publicly stated the city would not issue a Transportation Network Service business licence. The city currently does not have a licence available for ride-hailing companies.
“Uber is hopeful that the city will immediately cease issuing illegal fines, and allow drivers to continue to provide safe, affordable, reliable rides to riders in Surrey without harassment, as the region collaboratively works on inter-municipal business licencing,” van Hemmen said.
The provincial government introduced legislation in 2019 allowing ride-hailing vehicles to operate. It took the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) more than four months to review, and eventually approve, the applications of Lyft and Uber.
The two companies have been operating in Vancouver and at Vancouver International Airport since Friday.
The Vancouver Taxi Association has filed a lawsuit against the PTB asking for an immediate stop to ride-hailing.
“You want to make sure you are protecting the existing industry but not protecting it from competition,” Horgan said.
“This is a free market economy, people understand that. I understand the mayor of Surrey opposes that view. We believe the Passenger Transportation Board has done a very good job of balancing all of the interest of the travelling public as well as the existing industry.”