Saskatoon

Taxis and Uber: can they co-exist in Saskatchewan?

A think-tank is looking to Australia to find ways towards a future where Uber and the taxi industry exist together in Saskatchewan.

A think-tank says Australia has found a way to balance the ride share services and taxis

Australia is implementing regulations that give both ride share operations and the taxi industry space to exist. (CBC)

A think-tank is looking to Australia to find a way towards a future where Uber and the taxi industry exist together in Saskatchewan.

Youri Chassin, a representative from the Montreal Economic Institute, says lessons taken from across the world can be applied at home.

"[Australia] recognized or legalized Uber or other ride share applications while reflecting on how to compensate taxi drivers for their license. Most of [the taxi drivers] have invested a lot of money in buying those licenses and they did so to comply with the legislation," said Chassin. 

Purchasing taxi licenses can be as high as $200,000 and passenger behaviour changes, caused by innovations like Uber, threaten the investment many taxi drivers have made. 

Currently in Saskatchewan, there is not a valid license for Uber drivers through SGI, so the ride-sharing service is not legally available. 

The only city in Canada to legalize Uber so far is Edmonton, where the company is required to pay $70,000 annually to operate. 

Australia eliminated the existing taxi dispatch companies. That resulted with taxis in direct competition with applications like Uber. putting both under the same legal status, Chassin says. 

"In Australia, they are working on buy-back programs for those licenses and to finance this initiative, they would impose a $1 tax per fare for both Uber drivers and taxi drivers," said Chassin. 

Taxi drivers can be compensated up to 50 per cent of their licensing costs with the new regulations. 

In November, the minister responsible for SGI, Don McMorris, sent a letter to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, advising them that municipalities are in the best position to decide what approach to take.

"The approach that is developed by municipalities will determine what, if any, changes may be required to existing regulations around transporting passengers for hire," SGI spokesperson Kelley Brinkworth said in an emailed statement. "SGI's role going forward is that once municipalities determine the approach they want to take, it would be up to SGI to coordinate regulation changes."

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