There are a lot of conversations happening around ridesharing in BC and I wanted to address the topic openly, as I always endeavor to do.
An important clarification that I want to begin by offering is that companies like Uber and Lyft have always been able to apply to operate in BC under the existing ridehailing rules and regulations of this province.
There are no restrictions on the apps. Uber and Lyft apps (or any app) are free to operate here in BC – their drivers and vehicles would simply have to adhere to the current rules that exist here. Unfortunately, they have chosen not to apply because they don’t like the laws and framework that exist in BC.
These laws were put into place to protect consumers and the public. They include safety provisions that are important like criminal record checks, minimum licensing requirements, vehicle insurance requirements, requirements around regular vehicle inspections, minimum wheelchair-accessible vehicle ratios in fleets, and strict rules around fares (which are set by the Passenger Transportation Board, NOT cab companies).
For instance, it is currently a requirement that the transportation of passengers for commercial purposes be done in a commercially registered vehicle, rather than a personal vehicle. Similarly, you can’t start up a restaurant using your home kitchen.
We recognize the need to update and modernize these laws and will be introducing changes at the next opportunity, which is during the next legislative session in the fall. ICBC will then produce a new insurance product (ridesharing companies don’t want to purchase the same insurance that taxi companies use, so a new more flexible and innovative insurance product will have to be created that doesn’t currently exist in BC). This insurance product then needs to be approved by the BC Utilities Commission.
With the challenges that already exist at ICBC, this insurance product has to be developed carefully so that the public isn’t left holding the bag from insufficient coverage and rates. We’re confident ridesharing companies looking to operate under the new laws and insurance product will be able to apply by the next fall. If they wish to operate here earlier they can apply to operate under the existing laws.
The Ministry is doing the work that is required to modernize the industry, but the path to getting people cheaper and more convenient rides is simply more involved than it appears at first glance. As the Chair of the all-party committee that produced a consensus report on this topic to inform the Ministry of Transportation, I know this well.
Violations of safety regulations, predatory surge pricing, improper worker classification, drivers dying by suicide, the persistent occurrence of predators using ridesharing apps to gain access to vulnerable passengers, increased congestion, unsafe vehicles being used to carry consumers, the need to ensure those who use wheelchairs have as many options as those who do not……as a government, we’re obligated to look at those aspects of an industry that consumers don’t want to have to think about.
There are jurisdictions right now that are struggling to reign in an industry that has produced major challenges they were not prepared to deal with. We have the unique benefit of learning from their hindsight and it’s important that we take it so that we do this right.
I understand that people are frustrated about their transportation options and we’re committed to ensuring that we address this issue in a responsible manner. The updates will be introduced in the fall sitting and in the meantime 500 additional taxi licenses are being injected into the system to try to improve availability while the rest of the work is being done.
Thank you for reading and letting me know what you think. I always value the feedback of our community, regardless of whether it is critical or supportive of the work we do, as it helps me in my role as a legislator.