Manitoba

Uber, taxi industry take fight over ride-sharing bill to committee

A representative from the ride-sharing app Uber told the Manitoba legislature on Monday they should pass a bill that could allow the company to operate in communities across the province.

Bill would dissolve the Manitoba Taxicab Board, allow municipalities to regulate

Chris Schafer, public policy manager for Uber Canada, told the committee the bill should be passed without changes. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A representative from the ride-sharing app Uber told the Manitoba legislature on Monday that they should pass a bill that could allow the company to operate in communities across the province.

But a spokesperson for the province's taxi industry said the bill is unfair and would put taxi drivers out of business.

The standing committee on social and economic development held a public hearing to get feedback on Bill 30, The Local Vehicles for Hire Act.

If passed, it would dissolve the Manitoba Taxicab Board, placing responsibility for regulation with local municipalities and potentially allowing ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft to move into the marketplace.

Chris Schafer, public policy manager for Uber Canada, told the committee the bill should be passed without changes.

"And give the City of Winnipeg, for the first time, the ability to regulate its own vehicles-for-hire industry, be that taxi, limousine or ride-sharing if that's what they choose," he said in an interview with CBC News.

Scott McFadyen, a spokesperson for Winnipeg Community Taxi Coalition, says Bill 30 is unfair to the taxi industry.

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Community Taxi Coalition told committee members the bill would devastate the taxi industry.

"They're bringing forward legislation that, in the stroke of a pen, will eliminate an industry," Scott McFadyen said in an interview.

McFadyen argued the bill is unfair to taxi drivers, who face numerous requirements including safety shields and cameras, vehicle inspections and extensive training. They also must undergo criminal background and child abuse registry checks,

"These are members of our community, our neighbours, our friends. They're small businessmen who have invested considerable sums of money into a taxi licence," he said.

Shafer says many communities across Canada that have passed bylaws governing ride-sharing services require mandatory criminal background checks.

"That is done on all our prospective drivers, in addition to vehicle inspections and other checks, such as motor vehicle reference checks for ticketable offences like speeding," he said. "All of that is done on every prospective Uber driver."

Technology also enhances safety for riders and drivers, Shafer says. Drivers don't accept cash, and both the driver and the rider exchange identifying information when the customer books a trip.

"When you take a taxi trip, the driver doesn't know who is getting in the back seat of the car."

When an Uber rider gets in the car, they can share their trip information with a loved one, who can follow via GPS. At the end the rider can rate their driver, Schafer says.

As for security cameras, Shafer says no communities in Canada that have passed ride-sharing bylaws have required cameras in the vehicles.

Ultimately, McFadyen says, it's a matter of fairness to the taxi industry. "If it walks like a taxi, if it talks like a taxi, it's a taxi," he said.

With files from Peggy Lam

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