Controversial question of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft operating in B.C. will be researched by a group of MLAs from the NDP, Greens and Liberals.
Green leader Andrew Weaver said Thursday his private member’s bill to allow ride-hailing will be referred to the all-party legislative committee on Crown corporations, which will hold hearings, gather testimony and write a report by Feb. 15.
Weaver said the goal is coming up with a detailed list of what needs to be in the legislation.
Ride-hailing has proved a politically sensitive issue.
The former Liberal government proposed regulations to reform the existing taxi industry, while allowing companies like Uber into B.C., only to be punished by a backlash from traditional taxi drivers in Lower Mainland ridings in the May provincial election.
The NDP had promised to protect the traditional taxi industry, while allowing riding-hailing by the end of 2017. However, after forming government, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena abandoned that deadline and announced a review of the existing taxi industry
that excluded opinions from ride-hailing companies.
Weaver said the legislative committee’s research on ride-hailing will complement Trevena’s incomplete report on taxis. It’s expected to include testimony from ride-hailing companies and presentations from the public and others with an interest in the subject.
“We’re saying, OK, you excluded ride-hailing from that process, in fact it’s not even in the terms of reference, we’ll set up a process that a process that will develop separate regulatory advice and legislative advice to do separate legislation,” said Weaver.
Ride-hailing is a sensitive issue for the NDP minority government, which has a tenuous hold on power and can’t afford to upset traditional taxi drivers whose votes helped it win key Metro Vancouver ridings like Surrey in May. The all-party committee potentially sets the stage for the NDP to align with the Liberals and Greens on ride-for-hire proposals, providing political cover for all parties should they choose to co-operate.
“I don’t think it will be a political issue,” said Weaver. “I honestly don’t. When you have all-party support on something it’s very hard to make it a political issue. If you all agree on something it’s easier, you are there together, and stand together.”