Regina city council has voted in favour of annual criminal record checks for ridesharing drivers operating in the city — but they won’t require them to have cameras in their vehicles.
A review of ridesharing in Regina was originally supposed to be dealt with in June 2020, but the council in place at that time had more questions about how the newer service was impacting more longstanding cab companies.
Administration provided the current council with an updated report, which municipal politicians considered during their meeting Wednesday in Henry Baker Hall.
Council approved amending the existing Vehicles for Hire Bylaw to reflect that as of April 1, not only will new drivers be required to get a criminal record check, all drivers will be required to renew theirs annually — including a vulnerable sector check, no more than 90 days before being authorized to drive for another year.
“It’s individual safety as well. It isn’t just a one-way street here. There’s a two-way street. It’s for everybody’s best interest,” said Ward 5 Coun. John Findura.
Since before Uber, Regina’s lone ridesharing company, began operating in the city in May 2019, there have been numerous lengthy debates at city hall about regulating such services in a way that keeps passengers and drivers safe.
Representatives from the taxi industry have been part of the discussions, arguing that they continue to face more stringent rules as they lose money to the competition.
Council heard from the owner and operator of Capital Cabs, Glen Sali, at Wednesday’s meeting.
Sali said every car should have a camera and that rideshare drivers should go through the same licensing process as taxi drivers.
“No app and its safety features on any app could replace a camera,” Sali said.
Currently, to drive for Uber Regina, drivers must complete an online safety screening. Yanique Williams, Uber’s Western Canada public policy manager, told council that Uber’s technology partner receives criminal checks completed by Canadian police stations.
In Saskatchewan, Uber also gets drivers’ driving history directly from SGI.
Williams said that in almost two years of operating in Regina, there have not been any major concerns about how they complete background checks.
Williams added that SGI sends Uber a weekly list of Regina drivers who need a new criminal record check or need to be removed from the platform.
A city report states that the city and Regina Police Service (RPS) have dealt with “few complaints, investigations and suspension of… drivers.” RPS, specifically, “has not received any complaints about… driver behaviour,” according to the report.
The same report also touched on cameras in rideshare vehicles and related privacy concerns.
It notes how ridesharing vehicles are usually operators’ personal mode of transportation and “not used primarily for the commercial transportation of passengers.”
“Most… drivers work part-time and requiring cameras would significantly infringe private vehicles,” the report added.
Williams also noted privacy concerns regarding cameras.
Williams cited concerns about cameras being tampered with and privacy issues over recording customers.
“It raises significant privacy concerns as the same ridesharing vehicles used commercially are also used privately to take family to and from personal activities and appointments,” Williams said in her opening remarks. “It would be a significant privacy violation to record a family’s private activities and legally questionable.”
Williams also told council that Uber has committed to a multi-year, multi-million dollar campaign working with sexual assault and domestic violence partners around the world, including YWCA Canada.
Local law enforcement has access to an online portal where they can submit inquiries and information requests.
According to a city report, at the beginning of 2020, there were 635 rideshare drivers and by the end of the year this number was nearly cut in half with 338 drivers.
The report also stated that driver information shows on average, 60 per cent of affiliated drivers provide at least one trip per month and the other 40 per cent of drivers are inactive.
Uber recently expanded its service to the RM of Edenwold and neighbouring municipalities such as Pilot Butte, Balgonie and Pense.
City or Regina staff will continue to monitor activities and have been directed to report back to council by early 2023.