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Taxi industry loses big as B.C. judge refuses to shut down ride-hailing apps
VANCOUVER -- A group of taxi companies failed in its bid to have the Supreme Court of British Columbia shut down ride-hailing apps in Metro Vancouver after a judge rejected virtually every argument it made.
Despite approval by the provincial regulatory body, lawyers for the Vancouver Taxi Association and its member companies had argued that the economic impact of the decision to allow ride-hailing was not considered by the Passenger Transportation Board, suggesting it didn’t make changes it could and should have to allow taxis the "level playing field" they'd been lobbying for.
In the meantime, the taxi group had been seeking a temporary suspension of ride-hailing services while it pursues a judicial review, which could easily take months.
But Justice Veronica Jackson found the taxi group didn't make a good case that they'd been treated unfairly by the PTB, citing numerous submissions they’d made to the board. She also found the PTB's decision was reasonable and within its purview.
Jackson questioned whether the taxi companies would be successful in a judicial review and found they hadn't provided anything beyond anecdotal evidence from one driver that they’re suffering financial harm in the meantime.
"The launch of Uber and Lyft in Vancouver did not arrive unannounced, there's been extensive study and consultation over the past seven years," the judge said in her oral reasons.
About a dozen taxi drivers and industry representatives were on hand for the decision, visibly disappointed by the extensive case law and reasons the judge detailed in her 40-minute remarks.
"We're reviewing our options right now to see want our next steps will be and certainly we are going in for the judicial review,” said Vancouver Taxi Association spokesperson Carolyn Bauer.
“You know, there's a lot of families and children that rely and are dependent on this taxi industry – not just in Vancouver, but in British Columbia, and they rely on a level playing field," she added.
The industry has long argued that it’s at a disadvantage when ride-hailing companies can put as many cars as they want on the road. It also argues it is subject to punitive insurance rates that necessitate pricier fares.
The Vancouver Taxi Association had also argued some drivers are already losing up to $100 a day, noting a negative impact at YVR and hotel taxi stands immediately following approval by the PTB on Jan. 23 and ride-hail commencement the following day.
The judge said the affidavits claiming losses were anecdotal, making the evidence frail, noting “we live in a market economy … competition is the norm.”
Ride-hailing companies relieved
Faced with the prospect of the courts ordering their services suspended, potentially for months, Uber and Lyft were relieved to have a Supreme Court justice reiterate the PTB’s authority.
“We're very happy with the judge's decision today that Uber will remain available across the region and we look forward becoming more reliable and expanding our service as we're able," said spokesperson Michael Van Hemmen. “Uber will defend our ability to operate under the Passenger Transportation (Board) approval. It's important to point out that taxi and rideshare exist across Canada.”
In an emailed statement, Lyft told CTV News today’s decision “reaffirms the benefits of ridesharing in B.C. … We remain invested in the community and will continue conversations with the government as it considers ridesharing regulations in the region.”
Lawyers for Uber and Lyft argued that contrary to claims by the taxi industry, their businesses have operated globally for years and there's not a single city in the world where their operations have eliminated cab service.
Slamming the judge
The VTA spokesperson lashed out at the judge when asked for her response to the judge's analysis of the judicial review’s chances.
“That's her suggestion and that's her comments on that and I'm not going to say anything about the judge – I think we all know her past record and where she's worked and where she's come,” said Bauer.
Justice Jackson was appointed to the bench in 2018 by then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Rabould.
According to her judicial application, she worked for BC’s Attorney General’s Office for a number of years, while lecturing as an adjunct professor of legal ethics and professionalism for the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Law from 2014 until she was called to the bench. The justice also spent time as a commercial litigator and crown prosecutor in Manitoba.