British Columbia

Here's why companies say ride-hailing for B.C. is 'nearly impossible'

Ride-share companies are pushing for a standard Class 5 licence, but the province insists it is sticking with a commercial Class 4 requirement. Uber and Lyft say they're disappointed, adding it will make it much more difficult to attract drivers in B.C.

'This could prevent ride-sharing from ever truly existing in B.C.'

Ride-hailing companies are pushing for a standard Class 5 licence, but the province insists it is sticking with a commercial Class 4 requirement. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The province has already shot down the recommendation from a legislative ride-hailing committee to require a standard Class 5 licence for drivers.

The recommendation was one of 11 put forward in a report to government Tuesday by a committee made up of nine MLAs from all three parties. 

But moments after that report was tabled, B.C.'s transportation minister told reporters she wouldn't budge on requiring a commercial Class 4 licence.

"Safety is paramount," said Claire Trevena. "If people are earning money by driving people from point A to point B, they should be prepared to make that investment."

Class 4 is a commercial licence currently required of taxi and limo drivers in B.C., and as Trevena pointed out, Alberta and Nova Scotia have the same standard for ride-hailing drivers.

'This could prevent ride-sharing from ever truly existing in B.C.'

Companies eager to start operating in B.C. claim the strict drivers licensing requirement could be a deal-breaker.

"This will make it nearly impossible for Lyft to operate in this province. This restrictive requirement could prevent ride-sharing from ever truly existing in B.C.," said Traci Lee, senior public policy manager for Lyft.

It goes on to say the regulation will unnecessarily keep responsible drivers with safe records from joining ride-sharing companies and will limit the number of drivers available for customers.

Uber and Lyft say they're disappointed B.C. won't budge on requiring a commercial Class 4 licence, saying it will make it much more difficult to attract drivers in B.C. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

Uber is also disappointed the government has vetoed the push for a Class 5 licence.

"The committee made the right recommendation on licence class," said Michael van Hemmen, business manager for Western Canada.

"The four most recent provinces to adopt ride-sharing (Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario) have all decided to allow a standard licence, if the driver maintains a safe driving record."

Critics claim there's 'no way' ride-hailing will be in B.C. in 2019

The government will fully review the final report and all of the recommendations, which also include no regional restrictions for drivers and no limits to a company's fleet size.

As for rate structure, the committee recommended no undercutting public transit costs and a requirement that the price of a trip must be disclosed ahead of time on the app.

ICBC is still in the process of developing an insurance framework, and critics claim a 2019 roll-out is not feasible given all the work left to be done.

"Because of the delays up until now, it's not realistic to expect it here before Christmas," said B.C. Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux, deputy chair of the ride-hailing committee.

"Only if [government] accepts the report's recommendations and moves forward with no caps, no boundaries and Class 5 will you see ride-hailing in B.C. at all," she told reporters.

"Given the fact that ride-hailing has been delayed through these two committee processes and over a year-and-a-half of discussion, the reality is there's no way that it will be in place in 2019."

Despite claims that it's 'not possible' to see a 2019 ride-hailing roll-out, B.C. Premier John Horgan told the media Tuesday the province is on track to introduce it by year's end. (Tanya Fletcher / CBC)

But the premier claimed the opposition is simply playing politics.

"Forgive me if I ignore their fear-mongering that something is not going to happen in the future," said John Horgan. "But we committed to get this done and I am absolutely confident that ride-hailing will be here in 2019.

The province insisted the timeline is on track for companies to start applying for licences by the end of summer as part of the review process.

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