Saskatoon city administration needs to "drill down" and further examine "the potential for the playing field to be level" between ride-hailing companies and the taxi industry, Mayor Charlie Clark said following a transportation committee meeting Tuesday.
The committee discussed the introduction of services like Uber and Lyft after the provincial government introduced legislation last week on the services.
"My sense is that the committee recognizes that ride sharing is coming — and we know there's a demand for ride sharing and there are also some problems right now with ride sharing. So we have a chance to learn from those issues in other places and come up with a model that works," he said.
Clark said the administration will need to explore rates, pricing, safety standards and how licences and criminal record checks are obtained "so, as much as possible, you're not allowing one industry to come in and undermine an industry that's already been operating."
"There are growing concerns with ride-sharing companies — and I would say, in particular, Uber — in terms of safety. There's fights going on in other cities around some of the regulations and so we need to try and figure out what's right for Saskatoon," he said.
'I'm confident we're going to get this right'
The administration is expected to report on the creation of a comprehensive vehicle-for-hire bylaw sometime in the new year, Clark said.
During the discussion of the standing policy committee on transportation, Coun. Zach Jeffries acknowledged that all stakeholders may not be happy with the decisions that will be made in Saskatoon.
Still, "I'm confident we're going to get this right," he said.
A union that represents taxi drivers in Saskatoon had planned to protest the introduction of ride-hailing apps in front of City Hall Tuesday afternoon.
"It's going to for sure hurt the over 400 families [of cab drivers] when ride-sharing comes," Malik Umar Draz, chair of the United Steelworkers Taxi Workers Council, told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.
The new provincial law requires that all drivers for the ride-hailing companies would need to go through a mandatory criminal record check and get a Class 4 driver's licence, which allows them to operate taxis. They would also need a comparable amount of insurance on their vehicles.
You don't want to set up two separate rules. - Union spokesperson Malik Umar Draz
However, the union, along with the Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association, are concerned that ride-hailing companies won't be held to the same standard as taxi companies.
"You don't want to set up two separate rules," said Draz. "one for the taxi industry and one for ride-sharing services, because existing city bylaws cover all respects, from the driver's side to the broker's side."
Draz would like to make sure all ride-hailing vehicles be subject to yearly safety inspections and have in-car security cameras.
"The rules are there for a reason," he said.
The union is concerned that opening the market to ride-hailing cars could flood the market and make it difficult to make a living.
Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association said it did not support the union's rally, stating that it would like to portray a positive message.
Level playing field
Coun. Darren Hill, a long-time advocate of ride-hailing companies, said creating regulations that are exactly the same for taxis and ride-hailing drivers would be next to impossible.
"The playing field won't be the same, because they are two completely different services," said Hill. "That's like saying you should have the exact same regulations on an Airbnb that you do at the Delta Bessborough."
We need to provide some comfort to the taxi industry that there will be some regulation. - Coun. Darren Hill
However, Hill said council is committed to creating rules that govern both industries fairly.
"There needs to be a playing field for the ride-sharing networks to follow," he said. "Right now, that doesn't exist, and that's our responsibility to do that."
Hill said many cities across the country have taken a hands-off approach when it comes to Uber and Lyft, and it's not clear what Saskatoon's strategy will be.
"A lot of other municipalities haven't done much to regulate the industry, other than look at the pricing," he said. "But we need to provide some comfort to the taxi industry that there will be some regulation."
Ultimately, Hill believes that everyone will benefit from ride-hailing companies entering the market.
"It's extremely convenient," said Hill. "The citizens of Saskatoon have clearly indicated to me that they want to introduce ride-sharing networks into Saskatoon."