British Columbia

B.C. premier on board with ride-hailing as taxi industry fights back

Ride-hailing is coming to B.C. and pushback from the taxi industry won't change that, Premier John Horgan said Thursday. 

Premier John Horgan says ride-hailing will not be delayed, despite taxi industry going to court

Premier John Horgan says his government is trying to strike a balance between the taxi and ride-hailing industries. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Ride-hailing is coming to B.C. and pushback from the taxi industry won't change that, Premier John Horgan said Thursday. 

Horgan's comments come a day after a group of nine Vancouver-based taxi companies filed a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court.  The group is asking the court to quash rules recently introduced by the Passenger Transportation Board that would allow ride-hailing to begin legally operating in the province.

The group is arguing the rules, which include no initial limits on fleet size and larger operating areas for ride-hailing companies, favour companies like Lyft and Uber at the expense of the taxi industry.

But Horgan says the introduction of ride-hailing in B.C. will not be delayed as his government has been working with both the ride-hailing and taxi industries.

"My mom used to say to me that if you've offended people on all sides, you're probably in the right place," Horgan said.

"The taxi industry is concerned about the pace at which we're changing. The ride-hailing international companies are concerned that we're not moving fast enough. That strikes me as an equal balance and I think the public understands that."

'You can't just wave a wand'

Horgan says the introduction of ride-hailing in B.C. could be compared to cannabis legalization in that changing a "highly regulated environment" comes with unique challenges.

"You can't just wave a wand," Horgan said.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he welcomes the competition ride-hailing services will bring to the Vancouver transportation scene and he's not concerned about potential blowback from the taxi industry come election time. 1:53

He said his government government is trying to strike a balance.  On Tuesday, Horgan sent a letter to the Vancouver Taxi Association acknowledging  its issues. 

"We also want to make sure that the family businesses that have been heavily regulated for decades don't just find themselves on the sidewalk with nothing to do," Horgan said Thursday. 

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena also sent a letter to the regulatory agency, the Passenger Transportation Board, about the taxi industry's "widespread concerns."

It urged the board to review its policy decisions to ensure the "viability" of the taxi industry. 

The Passenger Transportation Board did not comment as the case is before the courts.

Stewart Prest, a lecturer in political science at Simon Fraser University, said the government is trying to "walk a fine line" in maintaining an arms-length relationship with the board — an independent tribunal — and the position it is taking.

"The taxi industry, it's a vocal constituent group. The ridings where it matters, it matters a whole lot, given the fine balance between the two major parties here," he said.

"The taxi industry's concerns are going to be addressed in some form by the time this is all said and done."

Many in the taxi industry want to see the elimination of geographic boundaries that limit where drivers can pick up passengers, claiming ride-hailing services aren't subject to the same rules. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

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