The province’s taxi industry has a key ally in the mayor of Surrey as ride-hailing begins to roll out across B.C.
Mayor Doug McCallum was met with cheers as he took the stage to speak at a meeting of B.C. taxi drivers who had gathered to vent frustrations at what they say is not a level playing field.
The mayor didn’t disappoint, pledging to keep ride-hailing services out of his city.
“Every ridesharing company needs to have a business licence to operate in the City of Surrey,” said McCallum.
“And I’m telling you today, we will not be issuing any business licences to ridesharing companies in Surrey.”
But while McCallum’s pledge might have been good politics, they’re more bark than bite: B.C.’s rules for ride-hailing don’t give authority to municipalities.
McCallum slammed regulations that would allow ride-hail companies to expand fleets to unlimited sizes while taxis remain capped, and warned their arrival would add to congestion on the roads.
The taxi industry says it’s not fair that its drivers aren’t able to take advantage of surge pricing or the new insurance rates being set for ride-hail companies.
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“We can’t compete because it’s two totally different sets of rules for the same industry,” said Vancouver Taxi Association director Robby Dillon.
Gurdip Sahota, general manager of West Vancouver’s Sunshine Cabs, echoed those concerns.
“They have gone ahead and given open boundaries to the ride-hailing services, but have refused to remove the boundaries for the taxi companies in Metro Vancouver,” he said.
“With boundaries in place, it’s very simple: taxi companies cannot compete with ride-hailing. We are not against the advent of ride-hailing, we welcome consumer choice.”
Industry representatives also signalled they weren’t prepared to go down without a fight.
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Peter Gall, a lawyer representing taxi companies, said they had filed an application for a court injunction against the Passenger Transportation Board, seeking a hearing on Uber and Lyft’s applications.
“We want all the information that’s been filed by Uber and Lyft, not summaries. We want their business plans, and we want a full and fair opportunity to respond to their applications,” said Gall.
“We want to show the effect on communities, on cities all around the world of the business practices of Uber and Lyft … We expect the PTB to look in-depth at their business practices to make sure terms and conditions are imposed to protect the public interest.”
Last month, the PTB put in regulations leading to ride-hailing companies making the decision to operate in B.C. Those regulations include creating large regional boundaries, including all of Greater Vancouver in one and huge pricing flexibility.
Uber, Lyft, Alberta-based Tapp Car and Vancouver-based Kater have all applied to the PTB to operate in the province, though the major players say they’re restricting operations to Metro Vancouver.
— With files from Robyn Crawford
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