A senior adviser to Uber says he’s confident the B.C. government will allow the ride-sharing service to operate in the province – which is why the company hasn’t pushed its way in, as it has done in other jurisdictions.
Uber has launched in cities across Canada, often against the wishes of local governments, but has yet to enter British Columbia on a large scale.
Instead, despite briefly operating a limousine service in Vancouver in 2012, the company has heeded warnings to stay away as the province examines possible regulations.
“We’re confident that there will be a solution here in partnership with the government that embraces ride sharing – we remain committed to that,” said David Plouffe, a former campaign manager and special adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama who is now chief policy adviser at Uber.
“Our preference is that the government comes up with a solution that embraces ride sharing, and we’re confident that they will. This isn’t a problem for governments to solve. It’s an opportunity to be seized.”
But he said “the clock is ticking” on the issue given that about 200,000 British Columbians have downloaded the Uber app, signifying interest in the service.
Mr. Plouffe is to meet Wednesday with Premier Christy Clark, her office said, but he declined comment on what he would say to the Premier.
He said he was hoping for some policy decisions from the government before the Christmas holidays.
But TransLink Minister Peter Fassbender, who has a key role in the government’s review of ride sharing in advance of any possible legislation, appeared to rule that out Tuesday.
At best, he said, the government might disclose a position on ride sharing by the end of the year after consultation with stakeholders.
“It will be in a form and with sufficient clarity that everyone will know what potential changes could be made,” Mr. Fassbender said.
“It will be clear where government intends to go.”
Uber has been pressuring the province to act, issuing an open letter calling for government action, holding information sessions for prospective drivers and inviting potential customers to sign petitions and voice their support on social media.
Mr. Fassbender said the government won’t be rushed by the company’s campaign.
“They are very aggressive and very committed,” he said.
“They have done a lot of things, run a lot of ads, tried every tool they could to try and force us to move faster than we were prepared to move. We resisted that pressure.”
The government issued a report last month summing up consultations with stakeholders.
Mr. Fassbender said the intent is to honour the existing taxi industry, level the playing field between that industry and ride-sharing companies and protect the public interest.
Mr. Plouffe rejected the suggestion that Uber is overly zealous.
“I don’t think we’re pushy here. Whether it’s Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton or almost all of India, South America, people are enjoying ride sharing now. I think the urgency is there,” he said.
“This debate has largely been settled in most parts of the world, including most parts of Canada.”
He said Vancouver is the largest city on the continent without ride sharing.
He declined to say exactly how Uber would move into B.C. if given a green light, saying he did not want to give away business secrets.
However, he said it was clear where the demand is – both as a transit option and as a source of income for drivers.
“The outlying cities and towns are really an important part of the discussion because those folks have fewer transportation options to come into the city of Vancouver.”Report Typo/Error