Ask province to let us in, Uber urges Regina, Saskatoon councillors

Uber Canada has formally requested that Regina and Saskatoon city councils ask the province to introduce legislation that is friendly to ride-hailing services.

Current provincial regulations prohibit a personal vehicle from being used to transport paying passengers

Uber Canada is asking Regina's and Saskatoon's councillors to request the province introduce regulations that would allow ride-hailing companies to operate. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Uber is formally requesting that elected leaders in Regina and Saskatoon ask the provincial government to introduce regulations so app-based ride-hailing services can hit the streets. 

Regina city councillors and mayor Michael Fougere received the request earlier this week, a spokesperson for Fougere confirmed.

"We have reached out to the Regina and Saskatoon city Councils to ask their support for the creation of modern and province-wide regulations for ridesharing," a spokesperson for Uber wrote in a recent email to CBC News. 

"Riders and drivers across Saskatchewan stand to benefit from new transportation alternatives like Uber."

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere says he wants to discuss the prospect of Uber coming to the city with the provincial government and see if it's willing to make the necessary regulatory changes. (CBC News)

Mayor likes competition

Fougere said he's in support of having a conversation about transportation network companies like Uber coming to the city. He explained he's inquired with Uber representatives and the minister responsible for SGI in the past on how that could happen.

"Competition makes for excellent service and maybe coming in here would be a good way to provide better service to people," said Fougere.

He said the province would need to make some regulatory changes in order for Uber to arrive, which to him is still a question of if, not when. 

"It's very early on in the discussion and I haven't heard from the taxi industry about this at all yet."

'Unique insurance approach' needed, Uber says

According to the request to councillors from Uber, the company explains its business model operates on allowing drivers to use their personal vehicles to offer rides for hire, which requires a "unique insurance approach" so a personal car can be used to carry passengers.

"Given that the province is responsible for insurance, license plates, and driver's licensing it makes sense for the provincial government to be the one to regulate and establish the driver safety standards," it reads. 

"Only the provincial government can ensure that appropriate safety standards are established across the entire province."

A spokesperson from the province has yet to respond to CBC News's request for comment. 

'Insurance is not the roadblock'

Tyler McMurchy, spokesperson for Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), said in an email that Uber is technically allowed to operate so long as a vehicle is registered as a taxi and a driver has a Class 4 licence, which is required for drivers of taxicabs, buses and ambulances. They would also need $1 million in liability insurance.

McMurchy said current provincial regulations prohibit a personal vehicle from being used to transport passengers for hire—the exact model Uber operates on. 

His email also points out that public transportation falls under a city's jurisdiction, not SGI's. He also added the vehicle regulator can provide an insurance option that would satisfy the needs of ride-booking companies if municipalities and the province requested so .

"Insurance is not the roadblock," said McMurchy.

"SGI is waiting to see what approach Saskatchewan municipalities want to take with respect to Uber, and they haven't advised us about what, if any, changes they would like to see to provincial regulations around transporting passengers for hire," it reads. 

A spokesperson for Fougere said it's unclear when city council will formally discuss the matter.