Opinion: The BC NDP government has no genuine intentions to introduce ride share

Jul 19 2018, 10:13 pm

First it was their election promise of enabling legislation for rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft by Christmas 2017.

Then that target date was moved again to the end of 2018.

And now, just yesterday, we were told rideshare will not arrive in the province until fall 2019 at the very earliest. Promises do not mean much in BC these days.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevana even had the tone-deaf audacity of saying that BC is “not behind the times,” but rather is “doing things in a very methodical way.”

But here is a reality check: every other major urban centre in North America and countless more jurisdictions around the world have already adopted rideshare. Somehow, BC is special from everyone else.

At this point, we have to wonder whether the BC NDP provincial government has any genuine interest in providing British Columbians with a real rideshare alternative that is not handicapped and suffocated upon implementation.

Its much-touted report released yesterday was apparently only the next step in the ‘slower-than-molasses going uphill in January’ process of introducing rideshare. This report did not even address rideshare directly, instead it only focused on ways on protecting the taxi oligopoly.

We also now have taxi companies attempting to reframe the public’s gripe about the taxi industry as simply being an app issue, as if a single universal app for all taxis will be just as good as Uber. No new app will solve the issues of reliability, expediency, and comfort.

Rideshare is all about enabling competition into this tightly regulated, monopolized industry by a handful of players banding into one. For many years, there have been repeated calls for the taxi industry to enable real innovation and competition amongst themselves.

They have not listened.

There is no interest in the taxi industry of having supply match actual demand. It protects the value of their taxi medallions.

Nor are they willing to suggest the dismantling of the municipal boundary policies that protect their sphere of operations from other taxi companies. In a geographical area as tiny as Metro Vancouver, which is split into 21 municipalities and carved into eight distinct taxi boundaries, this single factor makes the taxi system incredibly inefficient and unusable.

For far too long, protecting this one industry – backed by a provincial government that is unwilling to let in new players and rewards a lack of innovation – has held back general mobility and numerous aspects of the economy.

Airport and cruise ship passengers waiting for lengthy times for a taxi have damaged Vancouver’s reputation among tourists.

Restaurants and the nightlife industries see less late-night patronage when their customers are burdened by the worry of whether they will be able to make it back home. In the case of the Granville Entertainment District in downtown, fights over the shortage of taxis are one of the leading reasons for overnight street violence.

We are trying to become a major global hub for tech, in a world that is ever-growingly interconnected by the advancements of technology, yet major tech companies are wondering how it is possible we still do not have rideshare.

Competition is good for consumers. Just imagine all the jobs that can be created in other sectors of the economy and the resulting rise in productivity.

The BC NDP’s anti-rideshare stance boils down to politics.

The party was swept into government with a minority-hold-turned-artificial-majority not only because of the BC Green Party’s “coalition” but also due to its ability to turn traditionally BC Liberal-voting ridings into NDP orange, particularly the ridings in Surrey.

They know that if they allow rideshare, taxi companies and their members will mobilize and have South Asian communities vote against the BC NDP in the next election. Potentially reversing the BC Liberals’ political fortunes. The South Asian population is deeply bonded with the taxi industry, as it is one of their community’s largest employers.

In fact, the BC Liberals lost all eight ridings in Metro Vancouver with significant South Asian populations over the taxi industry’s backlash to the then-governing party’s new pro-rideshare position.

Then you also have the BC NDP’s known socialist ideology of being anti-capitalist and anti-free market. Allowing non-unionized, multinational corporation players like Uber and Lyft would be a complete misalignment with the party’s drum beat (just a few days ago, the BC NDP announced a new policy that requires union wages for workers building major infrastructure projects).

This is not to say the BC Liberals were any better on this matter: they had plenty of opportunities to take this issue seriously much earlier on when they were in governance. And they are likely now fearful of bringing up rideshare again.

If the provincial government really wanted to introduce rideshare, it would have already done so long ago.

Don’t count on rideshare coming to BC anytime soon.

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Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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