British Columbia

Uber Canada accuses Vancouver councillor of fear mongering in voicing concern about service

Uber Canada's GM says concerns expressed by councillor Geoff Meggs are 'misinformed.'

'The comments of the councillor are a probably a little bit misinformed, and may be trying to fear monger'

Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs says that Transportation Minister Todd Stone should develop a policy framework to regulate ride-sharing services such as Uber — rather than having these services fit into existing regulations, which the minister suggested Wednesday. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

The general manager of Uber Canada is taking aim at a Vancouver city councillor for what he says is fear mongering.

Uber Canada general manager Ian Black was responding to concerns expressed by Coun. Geoff Meggs over the ride-sharing network potentially beginning service in Vancouver, a goal that's faced opposition from local politicians for years.

"The comments of the councillor are a probably a little bit misinformed, and may be trying to fear monger," Black told CBC Radio's The Early Edition Friday.

Uber headquarters in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg/The Associated Press)

Meggs told CBC Radio's B.C. Almanac Thursday that ride-sharing services are problematic because they don't have the advantages that have come through the current taxi system — stringent criminal record checks, vehicle safety measures and inspections, and taxi drivers and vehicles that take special consideration for seniors and people with disabilities.

"There are 60 jurisdictions around North America and the world that have already created ride-sharing regulations. All of them include the requirements that were just listed by the councillor, and those are all things that we do already, and would be happy to do in British Columbia," said Black.

"Every Uber driver goes through a background check. Every Uber driver has their vehicle thoroughly inspected. Actually just last week in Toronto, we launched a wheelchair accessible service and we're looking to roll that out in cities across Canada."

Province's stance changing

Meggs' comments came in the wake of a shift in the provincial government's stance on ride-shares in B.C.

The B.C. Liberals say they are 'consulting' with the people of B.C. on the sharing economy, using a social ad campaign that points to a page harvesting email addresses and postal codes. (B.C. Liberal Party/Facebook)

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Wednesday that it is inevitable that ride-sharing companies will come to B.C., but said it is up to the companies to work out issues with the Passenger Transportation Board, which regulates the industry in B.C.

Meggs said it is "confusing" that Stone would say that now, as previously Stone threatened fines, legal action and undercover officers if Uber drivers tried to operate in the province without taxi licenses.

"We have been in discussions with Minister Stone and the government for some time now," said Black.

"We are hopeful that the government moves quickly to create a framework for ride-sharing regulations this spring."

'When,' not 'if'

Stone said Wednesday that there is no firm timeline for ride-shares rolling out in B.C., but said municipalities will eventually have to give way.

"I believe it is a matter of when — not if — ride-sharing companies like Uber will be present in British Columbia," he said.

Meggs believes if there are ride share companies operating on Vancouver streets, their presence should be provincially regulated.

Meggs said that Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has also written to Stone to urge the province to create a new policy framework for ride-sharing services.

The difference between their position on regulation and Stone's is that Stone says Uber needs to fit into the current provincial legal framework, while Meggs feels new legislation would be needed.

"As of today the regulatory environment is there ... They have to operate within the regulatory environment that is there." said Stone.

On this point, Black agrees with Meggs. 

"The regulations in  British Columbia do need to be changed in order for ride-sharing services like Uber, but also like Lyft and other competitors to come in," said Black.