British Columbia

Surrey issues notice to Uber to stop operating, Uber 'respectfully declines'

The City of Surrey issued a notice to Uber Friday to stop operating by 9 p.m. or face fines.

Notice comes during first day of Uber service in Lower Mainland

Michael van Hemmen, Uber’s head of Western Canada at the launch in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The City of Surrey issued a notice to Uber Friday to stop operating by 9 p.m. or face fines.

Councillor Jack Hundial said council did not receive a copy of the notice but he confirmed the news with city staff.

The reasoning is that Uber, which just began operating Friday morning in the Lower Mainland after years of delays, does not have the proper business licence to operate in Surrey, Hundial said. 

"I don't see how the city would be able to enforce it," he said. 

Hundial said there are "a few hundred" businesses operating in the city without licences due to expiration and other factors. He said the city is capable of issuing licences to businesses quickly or providing a grace period. 

Hundial said he was not sure whether Uber complied with the notice and ceased its operations in the city by 9 p.m., but said he supports ride-hailing. 

"I was excited this morning. Like a lot of people, finally, it's coming here," he said. "But we're up against a mayor who supports his friends and really not what the people of Surrey are wanting.

"I just want to see the City of Surrey get the same benefits of ride share that every other city in the region is benefiting from."

In a statement issued by Uber, the company wrote that "Surrey has requested that Uber pause operations, but we respectfully decline. No other city is taking this approach."

"The Passenger Transportation Board and the provincial government have given Uber all necessary licences authorizing Uber to continue operating across Metro Vancouver and in the City of Surrey. We look forward to working with all Councils on a path forward for the regional licencing of this new industry," Uber's head of western Canada Michael van Hemmen wrote in the statement.

Surrey mayor reasserts opposition

As ride-hailing operators Uber and Lyft began picking up passengers for the first time in the Lower Mainland on Friday morning, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum reiterated his opposition to ride-hailing.

"What continues to be my chief concern is the unfair advantage that has been created without any regard as to how it will impact those who are employed in the taxi industry. It is no secret that a large percentage of cab drivers live in Surrey," he said. 

Surrey businesses can be subject to a $500 fine if they do not have an operating licence, Hundial said. 

"They can expedite business licences if they choose to," he said. "So it's really up to the city now to sort of decide what they're wanting to do with Uber operators."

Uber operating area in Metro Vancouver. (Uber)

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said municipalities can set requirements for business licences for ride-hailing operators but provincial laws prohibit blocking ride-hailing altogether. 

In a statement Friday night, Rob Costanzo, general manager of corporate services for the City of Surrey, said staff told Uber that council has not yet come to a decision on how it wants to deal with ride-hailing business licences.

"Until a decision is made on this regard, ride-hailing companies are precluded from operating within Surrey's boundaries," he said. 

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