Uber says MPI insurance proposal could keep it out of Winnipeg

Uber may not come to Winnipeg in March after all.

Ride-hailing service says MPI will create 'friction' for drivers, outlines conflict with city's bylaw

Uber said there are 'deficiencies' in the MPI insurance proposal for vehicles for hire in a Jan. 4 submission to the Public Utilities Board. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Uber may not come to Winnipeg in March after all.

In a submission made to the Manitoba Public Utilities Board on Jan. 4, the ride-hailing company said Manitoba Public Insurance's proposed insurance plan for drivers won't work for Uber's business model.

"While Uber appreciates the effort that MPI has devoted to the development of its proposed ridesharing insurance product, Uber is respectfully of the view that the structure of the insurance product, including its rate bands, does not meet the insurance needs of rideshare drivers using the Uber app," the document reads.

The City of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba have already passed legislation that would allow ride-hailing services to enter the Winnipeg market on March 1.

Manitoba Public Insurance made a submission to the Public Utilities Board on Dec. 15 outlining its proposed vehicle for hire insurance package, which would see ride-hailing drivers choose different "bands" of coverage depending on when and how frequently they work.

Insurance for vehicles for hire would operate as an "add-on" to drivers' personal insurance, Uber said in its submission, alleging that the structure "differs greatly" from insurance models elsewhere in North America, which allow companies to purchase blanket insurance on behalf of all drivers that applies only when the drivers have passengers.

"Based on the deficiencies in the MPI proposed product versus the type of insurance that is available to ridesharing companies in cities across North America, Uber will, unfortunately, be unable to consider expansion of services to Winnipeg on March 1, 2018," the submission reads.

Chelsea Harrison, a spokesperson for ridesharing company Lyft, told CBC News in an email that they see issues with the proposed insurance package.

"While we appreciate the work done by the Manitoba Legislature, we do have serious concerns over the current insurance proposal and don't believe it would allow true ridesharing to operate in the province," she wrote.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation to find a way forward that expands Mantiobans' access to affordable, reliable transportation options like Lyft."

Insurance proposal 'not feasible': Uber

Uber criticized MPI's proposal as "not feasible," because the City of Winnipeg bylaw to allow ridesharing forbids companies from matching drivers with passengers whenever the driver doesn't have insurance.

"The individual nature of the proposed MPI product and the timeband elements of it will render it impossible for ridesharing companies to meet the requirement of the City of Winnipeg By-Law without checking a driver's insurance at the time of every matching with a passenger," a supplemental submission to the PUB reads.

Brian Smiley, a spokesperson for MPI, told CBC News in an email Manitoba's compulsory insurance program requires insurance to be placed "at the vehicle level."

But he said MPI is prepared to provide a commercial blanket policy "that provides contingent and excess coverage in the event one of their operators is driving on their platform without proper vehicle insurance."

"Doing so will address concerns over financial and reputational liability for Transportation Network Companies that may choose to operate in Manitoba after March 1, 2018," he wrote.

Uber alleged MPI's proposal would "create friction" for drivers by forcing them to make changes to their personal insurance, and doesn't acknowledge the fact that many Uber drivers operate at different times of the day for "a very limited number of hours."

Smiley said MPI's proposed insurance model is consistent with other jurisdictions and argued the model provides flexibility for drivers to pay lower premiums by opting for fewer bands.

A spokesperson for Uber Canada said the company has no comment further to its submission to the PUB.

With files from Bartley Kives and Aidan Geary