British Columbia’s transportation ministry is disputing a claim by the mayor of the province’s second-largest city that he can block ride-sharing services from operating in his community.
On Wednesday, the ministry responded to Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s comments that he would deny business licences to ride-hailing operations even as the B.C. NDP government has moved to allow them.
The ministry said in a statement that provincial law restricts the authority of municipalities to regulate the supply and boundaries of taxis and ride-hail vehicles, adding the province’s Passenger Transportation Board has sole responsibility to control supply, boundaries and rates for ride-hailing.
On Tuesday, Mr. McCallum spoke to a meeting of taxi drivers in Vancouver, reminding them of his long-standing opposition to ride-hailing.
The Mayor’s office issued a statement Wednesday elaborating on his concerns, saying he is concerned about plans to allow ride-hailing companies to operate without the limits imposed on taxi companies.
“If ride-hailing companies are allowed to operate with no limits, it would create an unlevel playing field. An unfair market environment would impact the livelihoods of taxi drivers and their families,” he said in the statement.
"It is imperative that both ride-hailing companies and the taxi industry should be subject to the same regulations and restrictions, anything less is unacceptable.”
Ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. has said it will begin operating in Vancouver by the end of the year. Uber has said it will operate, at least initially, in the Lower Mainland by late 2019.
In an August statement, the Mayor said new regulations would allow ride-hailing companies the ability to pick up across boundaries while the taxi industry must abide by limits. He also said he was concerned about allowing an unlimited fleet size for ride-hailing companies.
He said the proposed situation would “negatively impact” the existing taxi industry, although it has “loyally served Metro Vancouver’s residents for decades.”
Mr. McCallum wrote, at the time, that he had sent a letter to Premier John Horgan to detail his concerns.
In response to the Mayor’s remarks, Lyft spokesperson Fatima Reyes said the company appreciated the Passenger Transportation Board’s independent, data-based decision-making process, which has outlined policies that do not include municipal boundaries and caps at this time.
“As we have done in Ontario, we will continue working with all levels of government,” Ms. Reyes said in a statement. “Our aim is to bring our world-class ride-sharing service to the Lower Mainland before the end of the year, and to other regions throughout the province in the future.”
Michael van Hemmen, Uber’s head of Western Canada, added in a statement that there is overwhelming public support for ride-sharing services to complement existing transportation options in Metro Vancouver, and that Uber looks forward to a planned launch this fall.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena was not available for comment, but her office said she had heard the concerns of Mr. McCallum and other stakeholders and written to the Passenger Transportation Board to relay their concerns.
“We will continue to work to provide the services people have been asking for in a safe and responsible way that considers the effects of congestion and the livelihoods of those in the taxi industry,” the ministry said in a statement.
The passenger board did not respond to a request for comment.