Transportation Minister Claire Trevena defends restrictions on ride hailing that are more stringent than the rest of North America in the B.C. legislature, Nov. 26, 2018. (Hansard TV)

B.C. ride hailing regulation battle to carry on into 2019

Green MLAs vote against allowing ordinary driver’s licence

The B.C. government’s restrictive ride hailing legislation has passed into law, with the most controversial rules to be determined in the next year.

A key issue is Transportation Minister Claire Trevena’s insistence that drivers for Uber and Lyft-style services obtain a class four commercial driver’s licence, the same as taxi drivers and operators of buses with up to 25 passengers. That requires a medical exam and more rigorous written and road tests, as well as a test of pre-trip vehicle inspection and a criminal record check.

The B.C. Liberals tried to pass amendments that would allow class five drivers to pick up passengers, with additional training and criminal record checks to increase safety. But B.C. Green MLAs, who had argued that the licence requirement was too restrictive, joined with the NDP to vote them down.

Before one vote, which ended in a tie that had to be broken by deputy speaker Raj Chouhan, Olsen argued in favour of the class five licence with additional training.

“A taxi is inspected every six months, and we honestly don’t know how often or how regularly app-based ride-hailing vehicles will be used,” Trevena said in debate on the legislation.

Olsen and Green leader Andrew Weaver voted against the B.C. Liberal changes. Olsen said later that he prefers to work with the ministry and the Passenger Transportation Board, which will licence ride-hailing services.

First promised by the B.C. Green, NDP and B.C. Liberal election platforms by the end of 2017, ride hailing is not now expected until late 2019 at the earliest. Another issue has been how the Passenger Transportation Board will restrict the number of drivers in each region, and set payment rates, instead of letting the market determine service.

RELATED: Expect ride hailing by 2020, B.C. premier says

Those restrictions are a concern for Uber, the San Francisco-based service that was among the pioneers of smartphone-based ride-hailing that is now in use around the world.

“Unfortunately, Bill 55 maintains key barriers to entry that have prevented ride sharing from operating in B.C.,” said Micheal van Hemmen, Uber’s general manager for city services in Western Canada. “We believe there is still time to act and we’re committed to collaborate with government.”

The government has empowered a committee of MLAs to work on the regulations in the new year.


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