A B.C. legislature committee will examine the future of ride-hailing services such as Uber, as the NDP government's cautious approach to this issue continues to irritate the Green Party.
The formation of the committee was announced on Thursday by the third-place Greens, who have tabled a private member's bill to regulate such services three times. The NDP, which is governing with support of the Greens, has previously said it supports such legislation, but has not said when it would actually table its own, and the Greens have repeated voice their frustration at the government's pace.
The all-party committee of New Democrats, Liberals and the Greens is expected to release its findings by Feb. 15, 2018.
On Thursday, Green Leader Andrew Weaver said the committee will look at ride-hailing questions not being addressed in the terms of reference of a continuing government-commissioned review of the taxi industry. That taxi-sector review, announced last month, was commissioned as the province seeks a system that meets consumer demand for ride-hailing while protecting jobs and passenger safety in the taxi sector. The goal is to allow for ride-hailing by next fall.
In an interview, Mr. Weaver said the committee should help inform the process of bringing ride-hailing to B.C., especially given that the government review is more focused on dealing with the taxi industry.
Of the committee, Mr. Weaver said: "We'll be able to provide a forum for stakeholders to provide input into the issues that need to be taken into account when ride-sharing regulations are brought in."
In a statement, the provincial Transportation Ministry welcomed Mr. Weaver's interest and said it anticipates legislative changes in the fall of 2018.
"Our government supports a collaborative approach on this issue, and we look forward to working with MLAs as we develop a made-in-B.C. plan that protects jobs while ensuring British Columbians have access to the ride-sharing services they expect," the statement said.
Mr. Weaver said ride-hailing is long overdue in British Columbia and suggested both the BC Liberals and the NDP have been too cautious on the file.
"Political leaders are afraid of decision-making, making the tough decisions. They're always pandering to what they believe is public opinion," Mr. Weaver said. "We're elected to make public policy. We're not elected to speculate on how many votes are for this or how many votes are for that."
Mr. Weaver said it should not be an either-or decision for MLAs to find time to deal with ride-hailing amidst debate over such other issues as the fate of the Site C hydroelectric project, an opioid-overdose crisis and a housing crunch.
Opposition BC Liberal MLA Jordan Sturdy said in a statement that his party looks forward to moving forward on the issue.
"The BC Liberals remain committed to implementing ride-sharing in British Columbia and will continue to hold the NDP to account for breaking their promise to introduce it by the end of this year," Mr. Sturdy said.
In a statement, Uber Canada spokeswoman Susie Heath said the company looks forward to participating in the legislative committee process, adding Uber hopes for enabling legislation by the spring session in 2018.
Uber briefly operated its black-car service in B.C. in 2012, but shut it down after the province's Passenger Transportation Board intervened.
A spokeswoman for the Lyft ride-hailing operation said the company is also eager to participate in the all-party committee process.
"In our conversations with community members, it is clear that ride-sharing is in high demand in B.C.," Chelsea Harrison said in a statement.
The B.C. Taxi Association, which represents about 80 per cent of all operators in the province, has said it is pleased with the government keeping its promise to consult with the industry. The review will be conducted by economist Dan Hara, who has expertise in the taxi and ride-hailing sectors.