Nova Scotia is looking at the impact of companies like Airbnb and Uber to determine what impact they are having on existing business and whether the province needs to regulate them.
More and more people are booking accommodations through Airbnb, which allows members to rent out apartments, vacations homes or cottages for a fee. The Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia has long complained about unlicensed rentals available on Airbnb, because the association says the renters don't pay taxes and don't have to meet quality standards.
The Uber app allows people to connect with drivers willing to ferry them around for a price. Uber has sparked angry demonstrations and confrontations between taxi and Uber drivers, notably in Toronto and Montreal.
'Level playing field'
Business Minister Mark Furey told reporters Wednesday it was too early to say whether the study would lead to new laws or regulations.
Both he and the woman in charge of Tourism Nova Scotia, Martha Stevens, spoke of the need to "level the playing field," but neither was willing to be specific about what that meant or how existing businesses might be at a disadvantage.
Stevens appeared before a legislature committee on Wednesday and was asked specifically about Airbnb. That's how opposition politicians and the public learned a study had been commissioned and was already underway.
Stevens said it was too early to talk about what might come of the study.
"We're not speaking specifically about any type of legislation at this point in time," she said.
Possible revenue generator
Furey was equally reluctant to offer specifics, although he suggested one motivation for the province would be to ensure businesses would all be paying their fair share of taxes.
"The revenue component would be a factor you would want to consider," he said. "The impact on existing businesses and revenue that the province may be losing or may be able to generate."
Economist Fred Morley is working on the study, which is expected to take a year.
Last week, the Ontario government announced a partnership with Airbnb for a pilot project that will see the home-sharing service tell its 11,000 hosts in the province to pay their taxes.