Ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft to be allowed in Sask. starting mid-December

The Saskatchewan government has approved regulations that will govern ride-hailing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, in the province. The Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association says the regulations risk public safety.

Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association says regulations compromise safety

Drivers working for hire will have to pass annual criminal record checks and vehicle inspections. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

The Saskatchewan government has approved regulations that will govern ride-hailing companies in the province — but there's no indication yet when such companies will actually start operating here.

Companies like Uber and Lyft could start up in the province as early as mid-December, as long as they follow municipal rules. 

However, the province says it's unlikely ride-hailing services will be operating that soon. 

"They've all said they'll come to Saskatchewan if the regulations are right for their company," said Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, after question period on Thursday.

Hargrave said companies have expressed interest, but no one has made a firm commitment. 

"They're going to wait and see where the cities land with their regulations." 

Regina's Mayor Michael Fougere said the city's report on ride-hailing services would be put to council in the new year. 

Taxi Cab Association slams regulations 

The Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association (STCA) says the new regulations compromise the public's safety. 

"The government just increased safety regulations on commercial truck drivers. To adopt higher standards for one industry while lowering them for another, one that transports people and not just goods, makes no sense," said STCA member Carlo Triolo in a press release.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance says drivers transporting passengers will have the option to use a "restricted" Class 5 licence — the standard licence for smaller personal vehicles — provided they meet "certain conditions," or a commercial licence. 

Those conditions include having completed the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program — the tiered system for new Saskatchewan drivers that lasts at least 18 months after passing a driver's test — then having at least two years post-GDL driving experience in Canada or a reciprocal jurisdiction.

They also must "have a satisfactory driver history," which means less than 12 points under the Driver Improvement Program in the last two years and no impaired driving-related suspensions in the last 10 years.

Drivers working for hire will also have to pass annual criminal record checks and vehicle inspections. 

The STCA criticized the government for not requiring drivers to have Class 4 license requirements if they work for a ride-hailing company. 

"It only makes common sense that for vehicles logging tens of thousands of more kilometres per year, and often carrying some of our most vulnerable individuals, including children, that they must pass a higher standard of training," said Triolo.

A press release issued by the Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association (STCA) says the government's decision follows 'intense lobbying from Uber and Lyft' and argues the regulations are a 'step backwards for public safety.' Earlier in the week, a lobbying effort in the form of a digital advertisement popped up asking for Premier Scott Moe to support Saskatchewan taxi companies. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

The regulations also change the rules for taxi and limousine drivers. SGI says they will now also be able to use a Class 5 licence, or continue using a Class 4 licence.

The STCA says "Saskatoon's taxis will not, under any circumstances, change the way they do business. All taxi drivers will require a Class 4 license, regardless of the province's decision."

Uber, Lyft issue statements 

A spokesperson for Uber would not commit to operating in the province.

"We look forward to working with municipalities, especially Saskatoon and Regina, as they work to update bylaws to launch more transportation options like Uber," the spokesperson said in an email.

Ride-hailing company Lyft declined to provide a timeframe for when the company expected to operate in the province.

A Lyft spokesperson said no one from the company was available for an interview, but in an email said "we look forward to working with municipalities to develop bylaws that will bring Lyft to Saskatchewan in the near future."

The province passed The Vehicles For Hire Act in May 2018. The regulations will come into effect on Dec.14, 2018.

Hargrave said "extensive consultation" was the reason why it took so long for the provincial regulations to come out. He said he was "disappointed" by the timing, but said he "just didn't want to rush it."

Hargrave said the ride-hailing regulations balance public demand and safety. He is also hopeful that more options will lead to less cases of impaired driving. 

Could lead to drop in impaired driving: MADD

MADD Canada regional manager Michelle Okere said she's supportive of more options on the road. 

"We have seen as much as a five per cent drop in impaired driving in jurisdictions that do have rideshare options, so for us it's really exciting," Okere said. 

About the Author

Kendall Latimer

Journalist

Kendall Latimer began her journalism career in print as a newspaper reporter in Saskatoon and then as a feature writer in Bangkok. She joined CBC Saskatchewan in 2016. Latimer shares stories on web, radio and television. Contact her: kendall.latimer@cbc.ca

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