Ride-hailing, taxi bylaw moves ahead in Saskatoon

Saskatoon city councillors have asked for a new bylaw on ride-hailing companies and taxi cabs before provincial rules come out this fall.

Councillors want mandatory criminal records checks for all drivers, city-issued decals for ride sharing cars

Saskatoon city council has asked for a new bylaw that would contain specific rules for ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Saskatoon city councillors have asked for a new bylaw on ride-hailing companies and taxi cabs before provincial rules come out this fall.

Councillors asked that the bylaw mandate yearly criminal record checks and vulnerable sector checks for all drivers as well as city-issued window stickers that would identify the cars as ride-hailing vehicles.

The issue of companies like Uber and Lyft entering the Saskatoon market has been very contentious. 

Taxi companies and drivers told council they are concerned there won't be a level playing field for them to compete on.

"If the law is passed, local taxi drivers are going to lose their livelihood," driver Ahsan Kamboh told councillors . "If it's passed, we're not going to stand anywhere."

Administration said it has been talking to the taxi industry and ride sharing companies for years  and that it is unlikely everyone will be happy with the final result.

"I don't expect by September or October there's going to be a consensus or a single point of view coming forward as a solution to all of this," said city manager Jeff Jorgenson.

He said ride-hailing is coming to Saskatoon and the regulatory framework has to account for it.

"It will be a question of, what changes above and beyond that do we make to the taxi industry?" Jorgenson said.

Adding in-car cameras in taxis and ride-hailing cars was also raised. Some cab drivers have been calling for the cameras as a security measure.

A representative from ride-hailing service Lyft said his company would not be interested in putting cameras in their vehicles.

"Our service is different than taxis," said Lyft spokesperson Matt Patton. "In order to ride on our platform, the identity of the driver is disclosed at the beginning of the ride, and the identity of the passenger is also disclosed. There's two-way tracking."

Many councillors expressed concern that the bylaw was being drafted before the new provincial law is released. However, the city solicitor said it often has to do so.

"A good example of this is what we did with cannabis," said solicitor Patricia Warwick. "Cannabis legislation at the federal and provincial level is not going to be in force until October 2018, but we have passed all our regulatory scheme and it's waiting for that other regulatory scheme to be in force."

Councillor Hillary Gough also wanted to ensure any ride-hailing app gave people the option to ask for an accessible cab. 

"You can call a taxi," said Gough. "You can't call a [ride-hailing company]."

The new bylaw is expected to be completed by September.