Uber’s arrival in B.C. is inevitable: Stone

Province aims to preserve role for taxi industry when it opens door for ride-hailing services

Transportation Minister Todd Stone now says the entry of ride-hailing services like Uber into B.C. is inevitable, but the province aims to preserve a significant role for the existing taxi industry.

While Stone still maintains Uber would have to get approval from the province’s Passenger Transportation Branch and meet various insurance and safety requirements, he acknowledged strong public demand for the service, which connects paying passengers with drivers via a smartphone app.

“It’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if,'” Stone told reporters Wednesday.  “That industry and its introduction into British Columbia is going to happen at some point.”

He said he wants to ensure any formal entry of ride sharing is “done in a very responsible fashion that also balances the interests and respects the jobs and the investments of the taxi industry.”

It’s a significant shift in tone from stern warnings from Stone in 2014 vowing to send undercover officers to bust Uber drivers if the service launched without approval.

Speculation that change is in the air has grown since the BC Liberal party bought online ads asking if it’s time to “welcome the sharing economy.”

RELATED: Sharing revolution to roll far beyond Uber, Airbnb

Stone said he and his staff are meeting with both Uber and the taxi industry.

He cited the convenience, choice and competition a service like Uber would bring to what has been a taxi industry monopoly, adding it could be “very complementary” and not necessarily detrimental to cab firms.

“British Columbians are expecting at some point sooner rather than later they’re going to have those additional choices.”

Stone said the taxi industry wants and deserves a “level playing field” and he credited its work to serve disabled passengers with accessible taxis and specialized driver training.

Disability Alliance B.C. executive director Jane Dyson said the safety and comfort of people with disabilities and frail seniors is paramount.

“There have been some concerns that the introduction of Uber may weaken the availability of trained taxi drivers working within the taxi industry,” Dyson said.

“We know that HandyDart rides are increasingly being buttressed by taxi trips and with the aging of the population that is likely to continue. If Uber came into the market we would want to see it strictly regulated, as the taxi industry is.”

Uber and taxi industry reps have been going from city to city in Metro Vancouver seeking support from local politicians.

It’s also become an issue in the Coquitlam by-election, where the Liberal candidate has promised to champion sharing services like Uber and Airbnb.

NDP leader John Horgan questioned why Stone has performed a “complete 180” from his earlier anti-Uber rhetoric.

He suggested the Liberals are either in secret talks to cut a deal with Uber or are merely trying to “curry favour” in the by-election.

Horgan called on the government to put ride sharing and similar issues to open debate in the legislature through a non-partisan committee.

“If we’re going to throw out what has been a many decades long system that has protected the taxi industry, certainly, and also protected customers, let’s have a discussion about that,” Horgan said.

“Let’s do it in a way that’s not just more backroom deals by Liberals.”

He said more answers are needed about the “consequences to family businesses” as well as the degree to which San Jose-based Uber would effectively be taking revenue out of B.C. and only returning some of it to its drivers here.

Just Posted

Surrey woman’s ‘tell-all’ book aims to help those struggling with domestic violence

Second book details abusive marriage, how people failed her

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner bids farewell in tearful State of City Address

Outgoing mayor announces Director of Housing, looks back at Surrey’s evolution, and pokes fun at her ‘media missteps’

ZYTARUK: Hepner, to her credit, rose to the occasion

She could have used her last address to make political digs, pitches and slights. She did not.

Supportive housing opponent says 110-year-old document should prevent development

Proposed site for Cloverdale project is on land gifted to city by Joseph Shannon in 1908

VIDEO: Story surrounding new playground at Surrey hospital a real ‘tear-jerker’

Dad began planning after his son had surgery in Surrey and he saw too many sad faces

Fresh-faced Flames fend off Canucks 4-1

Vancouver drops second straight NHL exhibition contest

VIDEO: B.C. deer struggles with life-preserver caught in antlers

Campbell River resident captures entangled deer on camera

Scheer pushes Trudeau to re-start Energy East pipeline talks

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer questioned the Prime Minister over Trans Mountain project

Mistaken identity: Missing dog claimed in Moose Jaw belongs to another family

Brennen Duncan was reunited with a white Kuvasz that was found in Saskatchewan

Abandoned kitten safe and sound thanks to B.C. homeless man

‘Jay’ found little black-and-white kitten in a carrier next to a dumpster by a Chilliwack pet store

Police chief defends controversial marijuana seizure

Advocates said cannabis was part of an opioid-substitution program in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Trans Mountain completes Burrard Inlet spill exercise

Training required, some work continues on pipeline expansion

Supporters of B.C. man accused of murdering Belgian tourist pack courtoom

Family and friends of Sean McKenzie, 27, filled the gallery for brief court appearance in Chilliwack

Most Read