Province won't intervene in Vancouver transit strike, minister says
VANCOUVER - As transit workers in Metro Vancouver prepare to walk off the job for three days next week, the provincial government insists it will not intervene.
"This is obviously difficult news for everyone who relies on transit in the Lower Mainland," said Labour Minister Harry Bains in a statement Wednesday. "No one wants to see a disruption."
Earlier in the day, the union representing bus operators and maintenance workers in the region announced plans for a complete shutdown of bus and SeaBus service on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week. No talks between the two sides are currently scheduled.
Bains said the province "strongly urges" the two sides to return to the bargaining table, and added that the government expects Unifor and Coast Mountain Bus Company to be able to reach an agreement without outside help.
"This is a matter between the employer, Coast Mountain Bus Company, and the union," Bains said. "They have successfully bargained numerous collective agreements together without any outside involvement. It’s our expectation that they will be able to do so again."
Bains maintained this position during question period at the provincial legislature on Wednesday, as members of the opposition BC Liberals called for the government to appoint a mediator in the labour dispute.
Premier John Horgan has previously said an extended transit strike like the one that lasted for four months in 2001 "won't happen" on his watch.
Ride-hailing unlikely to be in place for strike
Meanwhile, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena was asked Wednesday afternoon whether transit users could expect to be able to turn to ride-hailing services during the bus shutdown.
The NDP government introduced legislation earlier this year allowing for services such as Uber and Lyft to operate in B.C., but so far neither company - nor any other one - has received a licence to operate from the Passenger Transportation Board.
"We are still anticipating ride-hailing by the end of the year," Trevena told reporters in Victoria. "We're anticipating licences to be issued soon."
How soon? Trevena wouldn't give a specific date, only reiterating the government's previous assurance that ride-hailing vehicles would be on the road by "the holiday period."
"The Passenger Transportation Board is working, absolutely, to get things through as quickly as they can," the minister said. "They are doing what they can do. They are an independent body and they work independently."
Trevena said she expects that ride-hailing companies will begin operating more or less as soon as they receive licences from the PTB.
"I think everybody is very eager to see ride-hailing in British Columbia," the minister said. "I'm eager to see it."