Province responds to McCallum's comments on ride-hailing
A day after the mayor of B.C.’s second-largest city trumpeted his desire to see ride-hailing services kept out of Surrey, the province is saying he does not have the authority to make that decision.
In a statement provided on behalf of provincial transportation Minister Claire Trevena, the NDP government confirmed McCallum’s and all other municipalities are restricted from regulating the “supply and boundaries of taxis and ride-hail vehicles.”
The statement continues, adding only the Passenger Transportation Board is allowed to establish those boundaries and supply, and that Trevena has relayed the concerns of McCallum and “other stakeholders” to the PTB.
“Government respects the independence of the Passenger Transportation Board to make decisions regarding operating areas and supply, and we have confidence the Board will reassess these decisions in a timely manner once data is available to do so,” read the Ministry of Transportation’s statement sent to CTV News Vancouver Wednesday afternoon.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum promised a group of taxi drivers at a meeting in East Vancouver on Tuesday that even though the provincial government now has rules in place to regulate ride-hailing across B.C., local governments could still have the power to block companies if they so choose.
"The cities actually have one tool in their back pocket, and I'm going to use it," McCallum told the cheering crowd. "Every ride-sharing company needs to have a business licence to operate in Surrey – and I'm telling you today, we will not be issuing any business licences."
The controversial mayor has spoken out about ride-hailing previously, but never indicated he would work to prevent companies from operating in his city.
Late last month, McCallum penned an open letter to Premier John Horgan slamming the ride-hailing regulations that were decided by the independent PTB, suggesting the lack of any limits on fleet sizes and the massive pick-up boundaries would give companies like Uber and Lyft an unfair advantage over the cab industry.
"To create a fair market environment, both ride-hailing companies and the taxi industry should be subject to the same regulations and restrictions. Anything less is unacceptable," McCallum wrote in the letter.
A Lyft spokesperson told CTV News Vancouver via email Wednesday afternoon the company appreciates the PTB’s “independent, data-based decision-making process,” including outlining policies that don’t “include municipal boundaries and caps at this time.” The company specifically argued that “artificially capping service” would create a surge in both cost and wait times, thus reducing earning opportunities for drivers.
“It is clear that the current restrictions imposed on taxis, including caps and municipal boundaries, limit service when people need it the most,” read the statement. “As we have done in Ontario, we will continue working with all levels of government as they assess regulations with the region’s most up-to-date data in the future … Our aim is to bring our world-class ridesharing service to the Lower Mainland before the end of the year, and to other regions throughout the province in the future.”
In an email to CTV News Vancouver, Uber's head of western Canada Michael van Hemmen offered the following response to McCallum's comments:
"There is overwhelming public support for ridesharing services to complement existing transportation options in Metro Vancouver. A Mainstreet survey showed 78% of Surrey residents want ridesharing. Uber is very excited for our planned launch this fall, and being able to deliver safe, reliable and affordable rides in time for the holiday season."
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Emad Agahi