Andrew Weaver wants the provincial government to quit stalling on enacting legislation that will allow rideshare services to operate in British Columbia.
The BC Green party leader announced today that he will reintroduce legislation during the fall session, which will mark the third time he has introduced the act since April 2016. His most recent attempt was earlier this year in February.
“It should have been brought in years ago,” said Weaver during a teleconference with media this morning. “We cannot pretend to be innovators of the emerging economy if we in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, and in British Columbia are unwilling to embrace the technology in that emerging economy.”
“We believe it is critical to send a signal to the international community that we’re willing to embrace that new technology,” adding that the government can no longer “stick its head in the stand” when it comes to this issue.
Weaver said one of the most significant obstacles with the implementation remains with insurance, as ICBC is still exploring a new insurance category specifically for rideshare.
While the BC NDP’s minority government agreement with the BC Green party stipulates rideshare as a priority, which was also included in the Premier John Horgan’s mandate letter to Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, Weaver laments that there is still no timeline for how it will roll out.
The former BC Liberal government promised to enact rideshare legislation in December and remains supportive of the policy.
During an interview with Daily Hive just before the May general election, Horgan said an implementation by the NDP at the end of the year was highly unlikely.
For years, the prospect of rideshare services, especially multinational companies like Uber and Lyft, entering the local marketplace have drawn ire from taxi companies, which argue such services will put them at a competitive disadvantage.
Prior to the election, Horgan maintained that he would try to make ridehsare happen as quickly as possible, but in a way that is “fair” for the existing taxi industry and will meet the needs of the traveling public.
“I want to make sure that as [rideshare] comes in, that the new consequences aren’t extremely adverse on the existing industry and the costs of participating are as close as you can possibly get them in terms of what Uber and Lyft would have to pay to access your patronage on a Saturday night,” Horgan told Daily Hive in May.
According to Weaver during today’s teleconference, Yellow Cab – one of Vancouver’s largest taxi companies – is willing to embrace rideshare, but only if the regulatory framework does not pick winners and losers.
He also said rideshare would only result in indirect competition as these new services would not be able to hail from the street and would only be able to retrieve passengers using the smartphone app. They also likely would not have the ability to pick up passengers from the airport.
As well, Weaver spoke about his personal experience with trying to hail a cab in Vancouver and added that competition could be a good for consumers.
“Frankly, people should embrace it. It creates competition… and well, competition is healthy,” said Weaver. “You might see innovation with the cab industry.”
Earlier this month, rideshare giant Uber said it was preparing for the eventual launch of its service in Metro Vancouver by having 25 Uber vehicles map out the region to acquire knowledge of the ideal pickup and drop-off locations, traffic patterns, and building entrance locations.
The company issued the following statement today in response to Weaver’s announcement of reintroducing legislation: “We are pleased to see positive action from the BC Green Party today that will benefit British Columbians, and we encourage all parties to follow through on their election commitments to work together and make ridesharing a reality in 2017.”