Premier John Horgan says ride-hailing will arrive in British Columbia this year following the release of an all-party committee report Tuesday that recommends few government restrictions on the services.
“We committed to get this done,” Horgan said at a news conference. “I am absolutely confident that ride-hailing will be here in 2019.”
The nine-member committee examining ride-hailing regulations for B.C. recommended a regulatory framework that places few requirements on boundaries, fares, numbers of vehicles and the licensing of drivers.
“In order to get true ride-hailing on the road for British Columbians … government can’t get in the way,” said Liberal Stephanie Cadieux, the deputy chairwoman of the committee on Crown corporations.
She said the committee is making the same recommendations to enable ride-hailing that the Liberals supported two years ago.
“We are hopeful, but not optimistic, the government will choose to accept these recommendations,” said Cadieux.
The New Democrats introduced legislation last year that aims to introduce ride-hailing later this year.
The government said its legislation will amend eight statutes and give the Passenger Transportation Board expanded powers to accept applications and set terms and conditions for licences covering taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said she will review the committee’s report, but indicated the government will require that drivers hold Class 4 licences despite the committee’s backing of Class 5 licences.
Most drivers in B.C. hold a Class 5 licence, but drivers of taxis, ambulances and small buses must hold Class 4 licences.
The committee report said its members were uncertain that Class 4 licences produce safer drivers, but Trevena said she is firm on the licence requirement.
“Public safety has to be my No. 1 concern,” she said. “Class 4 is a commercial licence and I think if people are earning money by driving people from point A to point B they should be prepared to make that investment because safety is No. 1.”
Trevena said she has heard concerns about the government adopting a ride-hailing regulatory model that is overly restrictive.
“I will be working in the coming weeks and months to promote flexibility around key issues of supply, boundaries and pricing to prepare for the introduction of ride-hailing this fall,” Trevena said.
The committee’s report and recommendations were welcomed by some communities, organizations and ride-hailing companies.
Michael van Hemmen, Uber’s Western Canada spokesman, said the company is hopeful the government will discuss the licence requirement further, adding that Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario require ride-hailing drivers to hold a Class 5 or equivalent licence.
“The government has shown an openness to listen to reasonable feedback,” said van Hemmen. “We have not been provided with any safety rationale for a Class 4 licence.”
Ridesharing Now for BC, a coalition of business and service organizations, said in a statement the committee report will help bring ride-hailing to the province.
“We hear every day from business owners, employees, friends and associates that they want ride sharing that permits flexibility, affordability, part-time employment opportunities, safer streets, and the ability to use this platform for both business growth and attracting and retaining employees,” said spokesman Ian Tostenson.
The B.C. Taxi Association provided a written submission to the committee saying it has no difficulties with the services provided the companies meet safety standards and there is an even playing field.