Calgary has become the latest Canadian city to welcome Uber to its streets. Like the ride-sharing company's entry into many markets, it was not without some turbulence, but in the end, the city put consumers ahead of the narrow self-interests of the taxi industry.
Something for which Vancouver, and the government of British Columbia, have demonstrated little stomach.
Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver majority couldn't bear the thought of taking on the mighty taxi lobby, and its virulent opposition to competition of any nature. Perhaps the mayor was put off by the thought of the taxi union withholding political donations to his party. Or maybe it was the image of taxi drivers in Edmonton showing up to a council meeting and ripping off their shirts in protest of the city's decision to allow Uber in that scared him.
Either way, Vancouver punted the issue over to the province to deal with.
No one likes the thought of large, beefy men exposing themselves in the manner angry Edmonton taxi drivers did in September. Councillors in Edmonton didn't much like it, either, but it actually helped the city's cause, according to Mayor Don Iveson.
Mr. Iveson was in town recently to talk to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. I had a chance to ask him about the famous showdown in his council chambers and what, if any, impact it had on the overall Uber debate. "It made the decision a bit easier actually," the mayor told me. "It polarized the public, pitting many firmly against the cab drivers. They lost some of the social license they had because of the way they behaved."
Here in British Columbia, politicians quiver in their boots over the prospect of such a confrontation.
No one knows for sure quite where things stand with the "consultative review process" the provincial government has launched into ride sharing. Peter Fassbender, the minister in charge of the file, mostly twists himself into knots trying not to offend the taxi industry any time the subject is raised. Lord knows, many of those drivers will be voting in the provincial election in May.
What we've heard the B.C. government speak a lot about, however, is trying to find ways to "level the playing field" between ride-sharing companies and the taxi industry. But there is never any explanation of what that means.
They talked about trying to establish a "level playing field" in Edmonton, too – at least for a while. But eventually it dawned on people, including Mr. Iveson, there is no such thing.
"This idea of a level playing field is a chimera because you're never going to find it," Mr. Iveson told me. "You are talking about two separate things here; they are similar, yes, but are not the same so are not going to play by precisely the same rules."
Ultimately, Edmonton, like many other cities around the world, agreed there was no reason why one industry should be inoculated from the shock of technological advancement when others aren't. The city also held the view it should not be liable for the depreciation in the value of taxi licenses as a result of Uber's incursion into the marketplace. Which is the way it should be.
Again, why should the taxi industry, alone, be protected from the economic costs that the Internet and other agents of change have wrought on the commercial world? Sure, we can feel badly for these industries, including mine. But society marches on, waiting for no one.
Mr. Iveson says Uber's arrival has been a good thing. Shortly after it did, another ride-sharing company opened for business: TappCar. A local startup with 250 cars on the road, the company is already challenging Uber for customer loyalty. The city's taxi fleet, meantime, has not disintegrated.
"We managed the regulatory system to ensure we didn't collapse the taxi industry," Mr. Iveson said. "We now have a healthier taxi industry that is performing better in terms of customer expectation. That is what competition does."
People arriving to Vancouver, meantime, continue to be bewildered by the ride-share industry's absence. A city that likes to tout its coolness factor, its cred among millennials and progressives, continues to look like an insular backwater. Maybe civic officials, and a queasy provincial government, should talk to Mr. Iveson about how it's done.