Ride-sharing giant Uber is popular with passengers who have used the convenient smartphone-based service to hail rides in other cities.

Uber’s arrival in B.C. is inevitable: Stone

Province aims to preserve role for taxi industry when it opens door for ride-hailing services

Transportation Minister Todd Stone now says the entry of ride-hailing services like Uber into B.C. is inevitable, but the province aims to preserve a significant role for the existing taxi industry.

While Stone still maintains Uber would have to get approval from the province’s Passenger Transportation Branch and meet various insurance and safety requirements, he acknowledged strong public demand for the service, which connects paying passengers with drivers via a smartphone app.

“It’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if,'” Stone told reporters Wednesday.  “That industry and its introduction into British Columbia is going to happen at some point.”

He said he wants to ensure any formal entry of ride sharing is “done in a very responsible fashion that also balances the interests and respects the jobs and the investments of the taxi industry.”

It’s a significant shift in tone from stern warnings from Stone in 2014 vowing to send undercover officers to bust Uber drivers if the service launched without approval.

Speculation that change is in the air has grown since the BC Liberal party bought online ads asking if it’s time to “welcome the sharing economy.”

RELATED: Sharing revolution to roll far beyond Uber, Airbnb

Stone said he and his staff are meeting with both Uber and the taxi industry.

He cited the convenience, choice and competition a service like Uber would bring to what has been a taxi industry monopoly, adding it could be “very complementary” and not necessarily detrimental to cab firms.

“British Columbians are expecting at some point sooner rather than later they’re going to have those additional choices.”

Stone said the taxi industry wants and deserves a “level playing field” and he credited its work to serve disabled passengers with accessible taxis and specialized driver training.

Disability Alliance B.C. executive director Jane Dyson said the safety and comfort of people with disabilities and frail seniors is paramount.

“There have been some concerns that the introduction of Uber may weaken the availability of trained taxi drivers working within the taxi industry,” Dyson said.

“We know that HandyDart rides are increasingly being buttressed by taxi trips and with the aging of the population that is likely to continue. If Uber came into the market we would want to see it strictly regulated, as the taxi industry is.”

Uber and taxi industry reps have been going from city to city in Metro Vancouver seeking support from local politicians.

It’s also become an issue in the Coquitlam by-election, where the Liberal candidate has promised to champion sharing services like Uber and Airbnb.

NDP leader John Horgan questioned why Stone has performed a “complete 180” from his earlier anti-Uber rhetoric.

He suggested the Liberals are either in secret talks to cut a deal with Uber or are merely trying to “curry favour” in the by-election.

Horgan called on the government to put ride sharing and similar issues to open debate in the legislature through a non-partisan committee.

“If we’re going to throw out what has been a many decades long system that has protected the taxi industry, certainly, and also protected customers, let’s have a discussion about that,” Horgan said.

“Let’s do it in a way that’s not just more backroom deals by Liberals.”

He said more answers are needed about the “consequences to family businesses” as well as the degree to which San Jose-based Uber would effectively be taking revenue out of B.C. and only returning some of it to its drivers here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bruce McLean, 91, has published his first novel, The Manana Treehouse, which is inspired by his wife’s experience with Alzheimer’s. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
91-year-old Saanich man publishes first novel based on wife’s Alzheimer’s experience

Former journalist Bruce McLean ‘on cloud nine’ after making fiction debut

Residents enjoy the annual Halloween Trick or Treat on Oak Bay Avenue. (Robert Harwood Photo)
Oak Bay to host series of Winter Markets

No Halloween, Christmas events in Oak Bay Village

Drive up voting is popular with Victoria-Swan Lake voters at the Craigflower elementary polling station. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Drive up voting popular at Craigflower polling station in Victoria-Swan Lake

Nearly 13,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the Victoria-Swan Lake riding

Polls close at 8 p.m. in the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding. (Katherine Engqvist/News Staff)
VIDEO: Esquimalt-Metchosin candidates reflect on campaign as polls close

An estimated 12,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding

Oak Bay High voting station was slow and steady for the provincial election day, Oct. 24, 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Early voting reduces election day turnout in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

An estimated 15,918 mail-in ballots requested in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

Most Read