British Columbia

Uber's arrival in B.C. inevitable, says Transportation Minister Todd Stone

It is only a matter of time before Uber arrives in B.C., according to the transportation minister, but first the ride-sharing company and others like it have a few issues to sort out.

But it is up to the ride-sharing company to find a way to comply with the existing regulations, says minister

A screenshot of the Uber ride-sharing app showing surge pricing in effect during a busy day for the service in Toronto earlier this month. (The Canadian Press)

It is only a matter of time before Uber arrives in B.C., according to Transportation Minister Todd Stone, but first the ride-sharing company and others like it have a few issues to sort out.

"What we are hearing from British Columbians is they want more choice," Stone said Wednesday.

So far municipalities like Vancouver have resisted approving the ride-sharing companies and protected local taxi companies, but Stone says eventually they will 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, and I do believe that the two industries can co-exist side by side and both thrive and grow."

But before that can happen several issues need to be worked out between the ride-share companies and the Passenger Transportation Board which regulates the industry in B.C.

Those issues include insurance, background checks, accessibility for people with disabilities and mechanical inspections of vehicles, he says.

The Vancouver Taxi Association said it has no problem with Uber coming to town — as long as it plays by the rules. 

"Uber does not pay taxes in any city it operates in. They don't want to come in usually and be regulated," said association spokerswoman Carolyn Bauer. 

"In some cities they have been regulated, and that's what we're hopeful for here."

Bauer said it's a matter of having a level playing field for all transportation service providers. 

Stone said there is no firm timeline for the ride-share services to hit the road, and it remains up to the companies to work out issues with the PTB.

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

Legislation in the works

Meanwhile the province is looking at other popular sharing services like AirBnB to see if they also should be further regulated.

In Vancouver alone there are up to 3,000 suites to rent on the popular website, and some critics have blamed it for raising rents and reducing the supply of long-term suites.

But the challenge the government is facing is there is very little other legislation to look at, according to Croalee Oakes, the Minister of Red Tape Reduction. 

"We also recognize we are in a very changing environment. It is important in a changing sector we help our businesses grow." she said Wednesday.

It is just one step in the government's move towards becoming the first province in Canada with sharing economy legislation, according to Jobs Minister Shirley Bond. 

"We do have to look at emerging trends, but we care about most is that we have a diverse economy in B.C. and looking at how we find that important balance of safety and protecting consumers."

This comes as the B.C. Liberal Party has been running online ads on sites like Facebook asking people if they support sharing economy companies like Uber, AirBnB and Lyft, and then asking them to sign-up with the party for more information.


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