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

Team BC defeats its hosts at junior curling nationals Sunday

Tyler Tardi and his team have played and won three games in the Canadian championships, so far.

UPDATE: Olympic softball qualifier to be held in Surrey

Tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

Surrey resident to speak about erasing Alzheimer’s disease stigma

A goal of Dona McMorland is to erase stigma attached to the disease

Vehicle rollover in Surrey

Surrey Fire Service responded to the collision on the 19500-block of 60 Avenue

VIDEO: Three-peat for Semiahmoo at basketball’s Surrey RCMP Classic

South Surrey-based squad tops Lord Tweedsmuir in final at Enver Creek gym

REPLAY: B.C’s best videos this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, beat Chiefs 37-31 in OT

New England will meet L.A. Rams in NFL title game

Pettersson returns to lead Canucks to 3-2 win over Red Wings

Vancouver’s super rookie has 2 points in first game back after knee injury

Crash closes Coquihalla southbound lane south of Merritt

Accident occurred approximately 26 kilometres south of Merritt

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found on Vancouver Island

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

B.C. resident creates global sport training program

The 20 hour course teaches the science and application of interval training at the university level

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

Most Read