Saskatoon councillor confident Uber riding into province next year

Wheels are in motion at the provincial government level to possibly change the regulations that currently treat ride-hailing like taxi services.

SGI reviewing current regulations, which treat ride-hailing services like taxicabs

Currently, Uber cars would have to be licensed and registered like taxicabs in Saskatchewan. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

You might eventually be able to call an Uber driver for a ride home in Saskatchewan.

Wheels are in motion at the provincial government level to possibly change  regulations that currently treat ride-hailing services as if they are taxicabs.

As the rules stand now, in order to charge passengers for rides a driver must have a class 4 licence, which includes medical and criminal record checks, as well as $1 million in liability insurance.

As well, any car that is transporting passengers for cash has to have a class PT licence plate — the same as a taxicab. Insuring a car with PT licensing costs more than $4,000 in Regina and Saskatoon, according to SGI's rate calculator.

Saskatoon city councillor Darren Hill said he's very confident Uber-like services will be an option in Saskatoon sometime next year.

It's about providing options to the citizens.- Darren Hill, Saskatoon city councillor

"It's inevitable that they do arrive and that they are operating here," he said.

A spokesperson for Uber could not be reached for comment, but Hill said he has been in contact with representatives from the company.

"Uber has already expressed an interest that they want to operate in this market and I believe that they are simply waiting for the provincial review to be completed and then they will start what they need to do from their end to be operating within our city boundaries."

Fellow councillor Randy Donauer, though, noted there are currently no requests by Uber to set up shop in the city.

Not the same as taxis

Hill has been advocating to bring Uber to Saskatoon because it provides an extra option for passengers. He said he wants ride hailing regulated, but said the services shouldn't be treated the same as cabs.

"Ride shares are not taxis; they're a different service entirely," he said. "But there needs to be some form of regulations or policies in place for the ride share companies so that everyone knows what rules they're playing by."

Coun. Darren Hill said he's about 95 per cent confident "ridesharing" will be an option in Saskatoon in 2017. (David Shield/CBC News)

SGI confirmed these rules are currently under review, but couldn't offer a timeline on when it would have results.

"We are looking at other jurisdictions and we're looking at rules and approaches that other jurisdictions are using to see if something similar might be put into use in Saskatchewan," said Kelley Brinkworth, a spokeswoman for SGI.

The provincial licenser couldn't go into detail about its findings yet. Brinkworth did offer that SGI's review will try to settle on proper licensing and registration for ride-hailing cars so that they can ensure safety for drivers and passengers.

Regina waiting for provincial review

The City of Regina is letting SGI take the lead on ride-hailing regulations.

"The province, as the public insurer of licensing vehicles, would need to make a decision through SGI on Uber," wrote the city in a statement to CBC.

Kelly Frie, manager of Saskatoon's Comfort Cabs, said he's open to sharing the road with ride-hailing companies, but wants the taxi industry to be involved in the discussion before regulations are changed.

He also thinks companies like Uber should "have to play with the same bylaws and regulations that the taxi company has been forced to do. We have over 60 pages of bylaws that we have to comply to, to protect the customer and protect the driver."

Kelley Brinkworth says SGI wants to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers as it reviews current regulations for drivers involved in ride-hailing services. (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

Hill said Uber-type services are just the first of many new issues Saskatchewan cities will have to deal with in the rapidly-evolving "sharing economy." Other services like Airbnb (for accommodation rentals), are realities now, and regulations will have to be considered by city councils in the future.

"It's about providing options to the citizens and the citizens then will make their determination what level of service they want to use," Hill said.


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