B.C. transportation minister not committing to ride hailing legislation anytime soon

Vancouver is the largest city in North America without operations from ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft — and it could be that way for some time to come.

'At the moment, we’re working in general on getting to a stage where we can assess what to do next'

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the B.C. government didn't want to commit to any timeline on when ride hailing legislation would be introduced. (Reuters)

Vancouver is the largest city in North America without operations from ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft — and it could be that way for some time to come. 

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena poured cold water on the possibility of legislation coming from the government anytime soon, in response to a question put to her during the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference on Wednesday.

"At the moment, we're working in general on getting to a stage where we can assess what to do next," she said. 

"It isn't easy."

Trevena raised multiple challenges the government faces in implementing laws allowing ride hailing, including ensuring passenger safety, making sure drivers had proper insurance and determining the role the Passenger Transportation Board would play. 

But she also said it was important to create a system that wouldn't harm the taxi industry.

"We want to first work with the taxi industry to make sure it's working, that we're working on a fair and level playing field," she said. 

"The taxi industry is full of small business people. We don't want to jeopardize small business."

The answer wasn't what Township of Langley Coun. Angie Quaale, who asked the question, was hoping for. 

Greens putting forward a bill this year

Trevena's words don't necessarily mean the issue won't be debated in the legislature this year. 

The Green Party announced last month it would introduce legislation this fall, after introducing motions in both April 2016 and February 2017.

"The government cannot stick its head in the sand when it comes to new technology," said Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver last month.

It's also an issue that smaller cities in B.C. are watching, with the City of Enderby putting forward a motion at this year's UBCM conference to advocate for regulations that work in smaller communities.

"It's even difficult for a taxi to set up and operate and make it viable, but a ride share program could be quite successful, if it was allowed to operate outside the larger communities," said Enderby Mayor Greg McCune.

But Trevena said the government didn't want to commit to any timeline on the issue. 

"It's too complicated. The previous government [wanted] it by the end of the year. I don't want to do that," she said.

"I want to say we need to get it right. We need to make sure people's safety comes first, that we have a system that works for everybody, whether it's ... taxi drivers or people who may feel they want to drive a car a few hours a day."