Edmonton’s Uber rules eyed by B.C.

Fassbender starting 'robust' reform consultations on sharing economy, working with taxi industry

The B.C. government is carefully watching Edmonton’s solution to Uber as it considers how to make room for ride-hailing apps here while preserving a role for existing taxis.

“What Edmonton has done helps to feed the process here in British Columbia,” said Communities Minister Peter Fassbender, who the premier has sent to consult with municipalities, the taxi industry and others as the province mulls potential reforms.

He cautioned that the province is looking at jurisdictions all over the world and it is “early days” to discuss specific elements of the Edmonton model that might be attractive in B.C.

“We’re in a different environment in B.C. with ICBC and the whole insurance side of how this province operates.” Fassbender told Black Press. “So there’s lots of work that has to be done.”

Edmonton city council approved new regulations in late January to legalize Uber.

Passengers who hail cars from the street, at cab stands or by voice phone call to dispatchers can only be picked up by taxis, not Uber cars – effectively penning off a chunk of business for conventional cabs.

Uber cars must charge a minimum $3.25 fare – which Edmonton council has warned it could easily raise if it detects predatory pricing.

Taxis, meanwhile, won’t be subject to their traditional regulated fares when they’re hailed by taxi company apps, allowing them to compete on price with Uber cars for rides matched by smartphone.

“It creates room for taxis to continue to be successful within their niche but it opens up room for competition and ensures safety in the private transportation side,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson told reporters.

Uber must pay the city fees of $70,000 a year to operate, part of which would go to accessible transportation improvements.

Not anyone with a car could simply sign up for Uber and start picking up passengers.

Edmonton insists Uber drivers have a provincially approved licence – expected to be more than a basic class 5 driver’s licence – as well as commercial insurance and a city licence. Violators face $5,000 fines.

Criminal record checks and annual vehicle inspections are required.

Uber is to halt operations March 1 in Edmonton and not resume until the conditions are met.

Fassbender said he held a conference call with taxi industry reps to reassure them the province will carefully consider their concerns and take no precipitous action.

“There is no definitive decision on the part of government to move in any particular direction other than recognizing technology is playing a significant role in this industry,” he stressed.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone fanned speculation last month when he said Uber’s arrival in B.C. was “a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if.'”

New Democrats have called for an open debate on the issue. They suspect unfair influence by Uber, which hired two former aides from the premier’s office as lobbyists.

Fassbender wouldn’t give a timeline for the consultations or say if the province will outline specific options under consideration.

“We’re going to be doing a very complete and robust look at what the issues are, and what regulations may be helping or hindering any sector of our communities – especially our friends in the taxi industry, because they have a lot invested and a lot at stake.”

B.C. Taxi Association president Mohan Kang said the Edmonton model is silent on various B.C. taxi requirements, from compliance with the passenger bill of rights to the commitment to low-emission and accessible vehicles.

“Edmonton council should have put a limit on the number of Uber vhicles on the road,” Kang said.

Uber Canada spokesperson Susie Heath applauded the Edmonton’s “progressive” approach and said Uber is eager to work with B.C.

Fassbender is also to consider other aspects of what’s dubbed the sharing economy, such as the rising use of Airbnb to offer unregulated vacation rentals.

It has sparked some concern that the trend could could crimp the supply of normal rental housing if too many home owners find short-term rentals more lucrative, while undercutting operators of regulated bed and breakfasts or hotels.

Just Posted

Surrey Councillor Laurie Guerra resigns as AutismBC director amid SOGI controversy

AutismBC president Gary Robins says her resignation is effective Nov. 12

BC Ferries passengers wait to leave Vancouver Island after Remembrance Day

Traffic aboard BC Ferries slows after Remembrance Day long weekend

Surrey Mounties investigate drive-by shooting in Fleetwood

It happened Monday afternoon in the 8000-block of 153A Street. Police say no victim has been located.

18-year-old to hospital after shots fired in White Rock

Police investigating early-morning incident

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Canada Post no longer guarantees delivery times amid more rotating strikes

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers closed two major processing centres in Ontario and B.C.

McGill students vote overwhelmingly to change Redmen team nickname

Student union held a referendum after a campaign by Indigenous students

B.C. university Pride group replaces white supremacy posters

Around 50 people walked through downtown Victoria to share posters of love

B.C. to invest $492 million in affordable homes

72 new projects are part of a 10-year, $1.9-billion strategy

Around the BCHL: Surrey Eagles sliding and Cassidy Bowes flows

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the league and around the junior A world.

Pit bull cross, chihuahua owners must split costs for dogfight damage, judge rules

Eac side responsible for $577.43 towards injuries in Comox Valley incident

3 random words mark every spot on earth

Innovative mapping system assigns three word combinations to 57 trillion 3 metre squares

Most fatal overdose victims did not have recent police contact: Stats Canada

11 per cent of those who fatally overdosed in B.C. had four or more contacts with the police

Most Read