British Columbia

Ride-hailing needs a level playing field in B.C., expert says

Garland Chow, a professor emeritus with the UBC Sauder School of Business, talks about how to introduce ride-hailing services to B.C.

UBC professor emeritus Garland Chow says ride-hailing companies have to meet same safety standards as taxis

B.C.'s Green Party is introducing ride-hailing legislation this fall. Vancouver is one of the largest cities in North America without a ride-hailing service. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

With new ride-hailing legislation set to be introduced this fall in British Columbia, one transportation expert says it's crucial the legislation create a level playing field for everyone involved.

Garland Chow, a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business, has studied the taxi and transportation industry in Vancouver.

He says the most successful cities make sure the transportation network companies — the official name for ride-hailing applications like Uber and Lyft — have to abide by the same rules as taxi companies.

"My primary concern is the public," he said.

"Where there are regulations put on the taxi company that are deemed legitimate and needed to ensure the vehicles are in good shape and the drivers are qualified and know what they're doing, I would think the same requirements should be made on the drivers of any competitor because they're competing for the same customers."

Listen to Garland Chow on CBC's The Early Edition:

Although this might put an extra burden on potential drivers for the ride-hailing service, Chow says it's simply the "threshold cost of getting into business."

"If the interest is protecting the public and safety, it doesn't make any difference," he said.

Labour protections

Another issue is whether drivers for ride-hailing applications should benefit from certain labour protections.

Currently drivers for the transportation network companies are treated as contractors and not employees of their respective service, Chow said.

"They are in a business where they basically have what are called residual earnings. They charge a price, subtract all the costs, and get what's left," he said.

Drivers do not get benefits, pension contributions or statutory pay.

Some critics have called this kind of labour relationship exploitative and there have been lawsuits against ride-hailing companies in California and Ontario to recognize drivers as employees.

While B.C.'s new legislation might not address that issue specifically, Chow said, the ruling of the Ontario lawsuit expected this year could set a precedent.

The bottom line, he said, is to attempt to create a fair approach.

"As long as the competition is fair and they compete on a level playing field, let the market decide."

With files from The Early Edition