Sask. introduces legislation for ride-booking services

The province has introduced legislation which will pave the way for ride-booking services like Uber and Lyft to operate in Saskatchewan.

Drivers will need criminal record checks, taxi licence

Drivers must undergo a mandatory criminal record check and obtain a driver's licence which allows them to operate taxis and limousines. (Kristy Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

The Saskatchewan government has introduced legislation which paves the way for ride-booking services like Lyft or Uber to operate in the province.

The Vehicles for Hire Act sets out requirements for drivers who are looking to make some cash through the app-based services.

Drivers must undergo mandatory criminal record checks and obtain a Class 4 driver's licence which permits them to operate taxis or limousines. 

Saskatchewan Government Insurance plans to apply the same rules whether someone is driving for a taxi company or for a ride-booking service.

Companies that intend to operate in the province must also have a vehicle liability insurance policy with a minimum of $1 million in coverage. 

The company must also insure every vehicle used to provide service under The Automobile Accident Insurance Act.

Premiums for drivers with ride-hailing services will be calculated based on how many kilometres the driver travels while operating.

Taxi drivers have questions

Still, the Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association says it's left with a number of unanswered questions about the degree to which ride-sharing services will be held to the same standards as taxi companies.

The association says it's still unclear if Uber or Lyft drivers will have to pass an annual safety inspection, if the vehicles will have to be accessible to people in wheelchairs, and if drivers will be required to have in-car cameras.

"We welcome fair and open competition but until we see the regulations that will be attached to this act, we remain concerned that the playing field is being tilted in Uber's favour," said Shondra Boire, an STCA spokesperson, via press release.

Fight against impaired driving

Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for SGI, believes lives can be saved by offering ride-booking services in the province.

"What brought on this legislation was our strong desire to put another option out there for … the battle against impaired driving," said Hargrave.

"These people will be there when the bars close. It gives people another option to pick so they don't have to make that wrong decision to drive home impaired."

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada has officially endorsed Uber as a tool to fight driving under the influence, but the NDP wants more scrutiny around claims that ride-booking services can help curb Saskatchewan's impaired driving problem.

"We certainly do have a very big problem with drinking and driving in this province, and we wouldn't be opposed to measures that would have an impact on bringing those rates down," said Carla Beck, the NDP critic for SGI.

"But let's make sure we're doing it based on fact, based on research and not on anecdote."

The province is leaving regulation of how ride-hailing companies are allowed to operate up to cities and municipalities. 

Between April and June, 15,500 people attempted to book a ride with Uber in Saskatchewan, the company said.

With files from Stephanie Taylor