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N.S. Tory leader to introduce new license category for rideshare drivers

N.S. Tory leader to introduce new license category for rideshare drivers
N.S. Tory leader to introduce new license category for rideshare drivers

With more than 700 cities around the world embracing ridesharing options like Uber and Lyft, Opposition Progressive Conservatives in Nova Scotia say it’s time for their provincial government to take the wheel.

Leader Tim Houston says he’ll propose legislation that welcomes the services to Nova Scotia, where consumers should enjoy the same market advances as the rest of the world.

“Other jurisdictions have figured this out and we have to learn from their experiences,” he told a crowd at the party’s annual general meeting in Halifax on Sunday.

“I imagine a province that has the courage to accept what customers want and has the courage to decide that it’s customers that decide where the market goes, not politicians.”

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Houston said the party is committed to creating a new category of license consistent with other jurisdictions like Toronto. If approved in the legislature, it would be require rideshare drivers to pass a clean criminal record check, hold a class-five license for at least three years, and complete special training on safety, conflict resolution and diversity.

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He said the bill will improve transportation access in rural communities and address passenger safety concerns, while reducing the burden on rideshare operators.

“It has to be accessible for those drivers, they have to be able to get the license. We don’t want any hurdles that aren’t necessary that restrict that,” he explained.

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As they debate bylaw amendments that would allow rideshare operators within their jurisdiction, Halifax councillors have suggested requiring drivers to obtain a Class 4 license — the same license given to truck and ambulance drivers.

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Uber has rejected that proposal, arguing it places undue burden on prospective drivers.

It’s clear that people of HRM want a rideshare option; a municipal survey conducted in 2018 saw 88 per cent of respondents say they were in favour of companies like Uber and Lyft operating in the area.

“I think it’s always a good thing,” said resident Kurtis Brown, of the proposal to require additional training for rideshare drivers. “I think it’s important for people to have a standard of service that they can provide to the community.”

“I just think they should have to do the same training that taxi drivers have to do,” said Santisha Giovannetti.

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

The legislature resumes on Feb. 20, and Houston said he’ll table the bill straight away. Even if it passes, municipalities could still refuse to allow ridesharing companies into their jurisdiction, but Houston hopes that won’t be the case.

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“My goal would be to work with the municipalities to make sure they understand the value of this to their citizens and their visitors, and they don’t put up roadblocks to it.”

With files from Jesse Thomas and The Canadian Press