The world’s largest ridesharing company has picked up a big win in B.C. Supreme Court.
Justice Veronica Jackson ruled on Friday that the City of Surrey can no longer issue bylaw fines to Uber drivers operating in the city. Bylaw officers have issued dozens of $500 tickets to Uber drivers over the past two weeks.
In her decision read out over the phone, Jackson said Surrey has been trying to “ride two horses at once” in demanding Uber have a business licence but not making one available.
“I have found Uber would suffer in-reputable harm in the form of unquantifiable losses if the injunction is not granted,” Jackson said.
“The board and expert tribunal charged with making decisions with respect to licences in British Columbia identified there was was a public need for ridesharing services.”
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said Uber drivers would receive tickets if they operated without a business licence and the city of Surrey would not be issuing those licences to drivers.
Provincial law made it clear municipalities do not have the power to block ridesharing. The Passenger Transportation Board made the decision to allow Lyft and Uber to operate in Metro Vancouver.
“Time to move on,” McCallum said following the decision.
“We will work with TransLink on the Mayors’ Council’s motion on a regional business licence to ensure a level playing field between ride-hailing and taxis.”
Last week, MCallum pledged his support for an inter-municipal business licence (IMBL) for ride-hailing. But the Surrey mayor is pushing the province’s independent Passenger Transportation Board to change the rules for taxi companies including getting rid of municipal taxi boundaries.
“By having a single ride-hailing business licence for the region, this will eliminate duplication, confusion, and waste of time and money for both those issuing and seeking a licence,” McCallum said last week.
“I have not budged from my position that a level playing field must be in place for ride-hailing and taxi companies to compete in. My fight is about ensuring fair competition in a highly regulated industry.”
Uber head of Western Canada Operations and Public Affairs Michael van Hemmen says the company is welcoming the court’s decision.
“Uber is pleased with the court’s ruling,” van Hemmen said.
“We look forward to working with Surrey and the entire region on the an IMBL which we hope will be adopted soon.”
Uber lawyer Michael Feder told the judge earlier this week that McCallum’s recent statements have been “disingenuous” in the face of past vows to Surrey taxi drivers that the city would “not be issuing any business licence to ridesharing companies in Surrey.”
“What’s happening in Surrey is embarrassing,” he told the judge, while also citing Premier John Horgan’s “extraordinary statement” last week telling McCallum to back down in the fight.
“It is embarrassing, if not shameful, to have the mayor called out by the premier and the transportation minister,” Feder said.
Surrey city councillor Linda Annis, one of McCallum’s political opponents, said the decision in favour of Uber means it’s time for the mayor to stop the political games and get on with giving 550,000 Surrey residents ride-hailing.
“This nonsense has gone long enough, it’s time for common sense and time to put passengers first,” Annis said.
“I hope today’s decision will put an end to ticketing of drivers and Uber and that we can give our residents another transportation option, something we all want. I’m looking forward to using ride-hailing in my city, the same way Vancouverites now use Uber and Lyft.”
— With files from Sean Boynton