At the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Tuesday, representatives from municipalities around the province debated the situation with taxi companies and ride-sharing giant Uber. The delegates spoke about whether to support modernization of the tradition taxi industry or to back up Uber in its bid to launch in the province.
There were two distinct sides in the discussion, those who believe Uber will bring about the demise of the taxi industry and those who think the introduction of technology can help the industry grow and gives consumers more choice.
Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson is among the best placed to offer an opinion. He was a former taxi industry businessman, but thinks Uber is a necessary evolution as the company can help serve residents in his municipality.
“In our community, we’re being held hostage,” he said, adding people can’t get a cab late at night or early in the morning.
“They don’t come out. Under the Uber system, it does,” Robson said. “It’s affecting our restaurants, it’s affecting our bars and it’s putting our kids at risk. And for God’s sake, somebody should do something.”
Fred Haynes, Saanich Coun. Thinks that there is little difference between Uber drivers (who are unregulated) and other unregulated practitioners, lick dental or medical workers operating outside the law.
“I don’t think there should be ride sharing until we fully understand those risks,” said Haynes, who portrayed Uber as the bringer of a Bladerunner-like dystopic future.
Langley Township Coun. Angie Quaale sides with Uber expansion and says residents in her municipality are eager for change.
“It’s not 1982 when Bladerunner was made,” Quaale said. “I’m not sure when this conversation changed to be referring to Uber and ride sharing as disruptive technology, instead of innovative technology.”
Peter Fassbender is the cabinet minister who has been heading the review team that will make the decision over Uber’s future in British Columbia. He has said that the review team has completed most of its information and has spoken to the taxi industry and insurance industry ahead of recommending a new bylaw.
“We will be putting out a discussion document that will highlight what we’ve heard and what we think we should be looking at in the province of British Columbia to have a made-in-B.C. solution,” said Fassbender. Public safety, fair treatment for the conventional taxi industry and insurance concerns will be addressed, he said.