Former Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak says the Uber ride-hailing service should be legal across Ontario, and the province should embrace the new sharing economy enabled by technology.
Hudak says clear, consistent, provincewide rules would encourage more app-based businesses to set up in Ontario, and would put an end to the "guerilla warfare" in some cities over Uber and its impact on local taxi services.
"The province needs to take the lead as opposed to leaving it to municipalities," he said. "Send a signal that we're an economy that is open for innovators, for new ideas, and would take a leading role in supporting technology."
Hudak's private member's bill would also give a green light to new companies like AirBnB and Rover with apps that let people share their homes or parking spots. The apps help some people save money and others earn some extra cash, added Hudak.
"A million riders a month can't be wrong," he said. "Uber's obviously doing something right, and I think we have to allow that to happen rather than stand in the way."
Premier Kathleen Wynne said Ontario "absolutely" has to grow the new technology-enabled sharing economy.
"It's certainly something that we have to talk about," she said. "We can't pretend that the sharing economy isn't going to exist. We have to figure out a way to interact with it and do it in a way that protects consumers."
Under Hudak's bill, municipalities would not be able to ban Uber.
"There's still municipal licensing, but there's a new category called the Transportation Networking Company, and there's consumer protection initiatives and public safety in there," he said.
Esther Nerling, who is semi-retired, is driving for Uber in Toronto to help raise money to pay for her daughter's university education in Sweden.
"Uber gave me the ability to earn money at my own pace, on my own schedule, and as much as I needed or as much as I want, and I've had an absolute blast," said Nerling. "Every week I know I can drive to the tune of making $500 or $1,000, and it's just freed up my life and my time."
The new Rover app designed to let Toronto homeowners offer up their parking spot for $2 an hour could help ease traffic gridlock, predicted Hudak.
"They say that 30 per cent of congestion is often people who are just going around looking for a parking spot," he said. "So if we send a signal that we are open to new businesses and new ideas, we'll see companies like Rover come here and grow."
Chase Winters said his parking space at his central Toronto home, right on the Yonge subway line, was sitting empty all day until he joined Rover.
"I signed up on a Wednesday night and sitting at work Thursday an email comes through saying there's a Chevy Cruze parked in my driveway," said Winters. "It's been a really great experience, and just kind of money from doing nothing."
Private member's bills rarely become law in Ontario, but Hudak said he's working with municipalities and the Liberal government to help get his legislation passed.
"My goal here really is to spark a debate," he said. "I think it's important that we take advantage of the sharing economy for the benefits it brings for average people for their rainy day fund."