British Columbia

Review taxi regulations first, look at ride-hailing later, says transportation minister

Taxis are to be the main focus of a $165,000 report commissioned by the provincial government that is due to be complete in 2018. Meanwhile, the Green Party is planning to introduce legislation related to ride-hailing on Thursday.

'If it doesn’t work well let's try and fix it before we throw something else into the mix,' says minister

Hara and Associates will be looking to hear from rural and urban municipalities about how the current system of taxi regulations is or is not working. (ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

The provincial government's newly hired industry consultant will focus his work on making recommendations to regulate the taxi industry and not ride-hailing services looking to enter the market in British Columbia.

Dan Hara of Hara and Associates said he will also look to speak with municipalities across the province to get a better sense of each community's needs.

"We'll be looking for those [municipalities] that are outspoken, because it's a rural issue as well," he said.

Taxis first

Hara said he is open to hearing from any existing stakeholders, including app-based service providers.

However, in an interview with CBC's The Early Edition, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the focus of Hara's work will be on how the taxi industry should be regulated.

"He's going to be looking at the taxi industry right across the province; how it works, how it can work; how it fits with all the regulations," she said.

"Then come up with recommendations on how we can make steps with the taxi industry, at which point we can deal with app-based ride-hailing."

Uber criticized the scope of the review for excluding "ridesharing companies, public safety organizations like MADD Canada, and the general public," in the process.

Previously examined Vancouver

Hara's background is in economics with a specialization in industrial organization. He works primarily with government and regulators.

He has recommended changes to taxi regulations in a number of Canadian cities, including Vancouver.

The newest report will be the third that examines the B.C. taxi and ride-hailing industries and will cost the province $165,000.

The price tag can be attributed to the province's complex layers of legislation and overlapping jurisdictions, according to Hara.

Trevena said six pieces of provincial legislation need to be reviewed, as well as the roles of the Passenger Transportation Board and individual municipalities.

Current system a 'mess'

The government has faced criticism for delaying an election promise to bring ride-hailing to B.C. by the end of the year.

Hara would not disclose when his company was initially contacted about conducting a review saying only that he was contacted "recently." 

"I don't think it's appropriate to talk about specific dates," he said.

Trevena said passenger and road safety is the focus for how the government is approaching legislation and called the current system a "mess."

"If it doesn't work well let's try and fix it before we throw something else into the mix, rather than having an even greater mess," she said.

The Green Party plans to table proposed ride-hailing legislation in Victoria on Thursday.

Both the Liberals and Green support bringing ride-hailing to the province on a short timeline and have criticized the slow pace of the NDP to finalize its plan.

Hara's report is due to be complete in the spring of 2018 with legislation likely to be tabled next fall.

With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition