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British Columbia Premier John Horgan is promising that ride-hailing will be available in the province by the end of the year – two years later than his government’s original deadline for resolving the issue.

“Ride-hailing is coming this year. The former government had half a decade to bring it forward and did not. We’ve had 18 months and we’re almost there," Mr. Horgan told a news conference on Tuesday at the legislature in Victoria.

Shortly before voters went to the polls in May, 2017, the NDP promised that ride-hailing services would be available by the end of that year if they formed the next government.

Now, more than a year later, Mr. Horgan noted that his government, which governs with support on confidence votes from three BC Green members, has passed legislation on ride-hailing and is working on the regulations.

An all-party committee of the legislature assigned to examine ride-hailing released a report Tuesday, with members expressing doubt that a Class 4 licence is necessary for ride-hailing drivers. Most members said a less-stringent Class 5 licence should suffice – a policy at odds with the views of the government.

“Members agreed that ensuring safety is paramount and discussed the need for passengers to be comfortable entering a car driven by a stranger," the report said. "However Members expressed uncertainty over whether the Class 4 licensing process actually produces safer drivers.”

Class 4 licences are required to drive buses, taxis, ambulances and special vehicles with a seating capacity of no more than 10, including the driver, used to transport people with disabilities. However, Class 5 licences cover cars, vans, construction and utility vehicles as well as motorhomes.

Mr. Horgan said he had yet to review the report but that it’s not unreasonable to take extra measures to ensure public safety.

But the BC Liberals said that commitment to a Class 4 licence will only delay the arrival of ride-hailing.

“The reality of a Class 4 licence is that it’s expensive to get, time-consuming to get. Right now there are months-long waits to get a test,” said Stephanie Cadieux, a Liberal MLA and deputy chair of the all-party committee. She said she expected that many prospective ride-sharing drivers, looking for part-time income, would be deterred by the challenges of getting such a licence.

Ms. Cadieux conceded that her party should have dealt with the issue before the Liberals lost power in 2017.

“We were in power for a number of years, where this got talked about. There was due diligence that needed to be done, and that would have been the same if the NDP was in power,” she said. “I wish we would have done it sooner.”

Uber issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the report from the all-party committee, suggesting it could nudge Vancouver closer to cities such as Toronto, Calgary and Seattle with true ride-hailing services.

On the issue of Class 5 licences, company representative Matt MacInnis said in a statement that the committee had made the right call: “The majority of Canadians can now use a Class 5 equivalent licence to ride-share or drive a taxi if they pass strict annual safe driving checks.”

The four provinces to most recently adopt or introduce permanent ride-hailing regulations – Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario – have all allowed drivers to use a standard Class 5 licence if the driver has and maintains a safe driving record, Uber said.

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