'Competition is here' for Uber and Lyft, Pallister government says as 4 other firms play ball with MPI
Cowboy Taxi, InstaRyde and U2GO join TappCar in Winnipeg's vehicle-for-hire gold rush
No fewer than four companies are trying to gain a foothold in Winnipeg's new vehicle-for-hire market before major industry players Uber and Lyft determine how to adapt their business models to Manitoba.
Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen said Tuesday four companies are working with Manitoba Public Insurance as a prelude to competing with taxi companies as soon as March 1.
In addition to Edmonton's TappCar, which announced plans last week to operate in Winnipeg, Calgary's Cowboy Taxi, Toronto's InstaRyde and the Winnipeg-registered U2GO are going through the regulatory process, Cullen told reporters in his office.
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That process involves acquiring commercial automobile insurance from MPI, ensuring their drivers attain top-ups to their personal vehicle motor-vehicle insurance, and getting licensed as a dispatch company by the Winnipeg Parking Authority.
Cullen said Uber and Lyft are speaking to MPI but have no plans yet to operate under Manitoba's insurance framework, which requires individual drivers to top up their insurance by a percentage that depends on when they intend to drive for ride-hailing services.
Cullen said Manitoba has no intention of changing its insurance product offerings in order to please the better-known U.S.-based firms.
"Well, their competition is here and they're going to be doing business. It's up to Uber and Lyft to make that decision," Cullen said, referring to a decision to play by Manitoba's rules.
"From Uber and Lyft's perspective, obviously it's a different business model than they're used to. We are the first province that has public insurance to go down this road.
"So obviously it's new to them, it's a new game to them and they're probably trying to understand how they can manage their business model in our framework."
The owner of Cowboy Taxi, which employs about 20 drivers in Calgary and its bedroom communities of Airdrie and Okotoks, applauded Manitoba for creating a level playing field.
Cowboy Taxi founder Mo Benini accused the Alberta government of tilting the market in favour of Uber.
"I think Winnipeg is going to be the best market we have because of the rules MPI and the City of Winnipeg drafted. It's very business-friendly," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Benini said Cowboy Taxi has received all of its government approvals to operate in Manitoba but does not have drivers in place. TappCar, in contrast, claimed more than 300 people have applied to drive for the company in Winnipeg.
The City of Winnipeg has been asked to confirm the licensing status of all four companies.
Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft are sending representatives to Winnipeg this week to continue discussions with MPI and engage in a public-relations campaign.
MPI will revisit its insurance product offerings in June, after looking at collision data from the first few months of vehicle-for-hire operations.
"We'll get a few months under our belts. They'll get an idea of what kind of accident profile is involved with ride sharing and base rates on that," Cullen said.
The City of Winnipeg is also proceeding with plans to issue 60 new taxi licences. Cullen said there will always be a place for taxis in the Winnipeg market.
Vehicle-for-hire companies eyeing Winnipeg
Cowboy Taxi: Based in Calgary. Booking and app info at cowboytaxi.ca.
InstaRyde: Based in Toronto. Booking and app info at instaryde.com.
TappCar: Based in Edmonton. Booking and app info at tappcar.com.
U2GO. Registered to a North End address in Winnipeg. No apparent website.
With files from Laura Glowacki