B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone has said he expects the controversial ride-hailing service Uber will come to Canada’s West Coast, sooner or later.
“Ride-sharing? It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when,” Stone told the Globe and Mail’s Ian Bailey. “I really think so. If we continue to have the good discussions we’re having both with the taxi industry and the ride-sharing industry, there will come a day in British Columbia where these two industries will co-exist and be able to grow and flourish as long as everyone follows the rules.”
While the City of Vancouver has felt the brunt of the public’s impatience on the matter, it’s actually the provincial government that needs to act before Uber or another company like it can legally operate in the Lower Mainland.
In B.C., taxi rates must be approved by the province’s Passenger Transportation Board. That’s a problem for Uber because its fees change based on demand—what the company calls “surge pricing”.
For Uber to operate in B.C., the provincial government will have to amend the Passenger Transportation Act to permit taxi rates that are subject to frequent changes. That means the challenges Uber faces entering B.C. are slightly more complicated than those it has overcome to enter other jurisdictions such as California.
Stone signalled that’s about to change.
His comments appear to be part of a larger government movement in favour of services like Uber. The interview with the Globe came as a new B.C. Liberal website asks for feedback on the so-called sharing economy.
There, the Liberals tout the benefits of such services, which the party describes as “flexible hours to supplement your income,” “renting a room to help pay your mortgage,” and “saving money for you and your family.”
“Do you think it’s time to welcome the sharing economy – including popular services like Uber, AirBnB, and Lyft – to British Columbia?” the website asks.
In Vancouver, Uber faces strong opposition from the taxi industry. Pro-labour groups have also criticized the San Francisco-based company for its business model’s inherent lack of employee rights.
Stone argued a majority of the public favours the government allowing services such as Uber to enter the marketplace.
“These are services that would [provide] convenience and choice and certainly competition that I think would be welcomed by British Columbians,” Stone told the Globe. “The ride-sharing companies just have to make sure they understand the requirements relating to safety they have to operate in.”