Uber political football thrown to Fassbender

Premier taps minister to consult with B.C. cities on 'sharing economy'

The Uber smartphone app can hail rides in dozens of cities around the world

The Uber smartphone app can hail rides in dozens of cities around the world

Premier Christy Clark has dispatched Community Minister Peter Fassbender to consult local municipalities and other stakeholders on how the province should respond to ride-hailing services like Uber.

The move comes after Transportation Minister Todd Stone last week suggested Uber’s arrival is inevitable but then said no policy changes are imminent.

“Peter Fassbender is now beginning consultations, really getting down at a granular level to people’s thoughts about it and see if we can put it together,” Clark said Monday.

The premier said opinions are divided among civic leaders and others about what to do.

“We’re giving it a lot of thought right now,” she said. “Vancouver city council has voted against allowing Uber in Vancouver. We’ve heard different voices in Surrey talking about yes and no. We certainly know there is a vast diversity of interests.”

RELATED: Uber’s arrival in B.C. is inevitable: Stone

The BC Liberal candidate in the Coquitlam by-election is campaigning to allow a modernized sharing economy, which Clark noted goes beyond transport services like Uber and Lyft.

“It’s about Airbnb, making sure we protect consumers, making sure that we increase availability,” Clark said. “All of that sharing economy is catching up with us and it needs to be regulated.”

Fassbender, who is also the minister responsible for TransLink, could not be reached for comment.

Surrey-Newton NDP MLA Harry Bains said Stone’s supportive stance on Uber – in contrast to his stern tone a year ago – has sent shock waves through the South Asian community and could hurt the BC Liberals politically in areas where numerous taxi drivers fear for their livelihood.

“It leaves a huge sense of uncertainty and insecurity for thousands of families who mortgaged their homes to buy these jobs as taxi drivers,” Bains said of Stone’s comments. “With a stroke of a pen, if he’s not careful, he could bankrupt those families.”

Bains said new technology should be welcomed but the province must create a level playing field that doesn’t favour one giant firm like Uber over others.

The taxi industry and some individual companies have developed their own smartphone apps that aim to deliver similar advantages, such as detecting location by GPS and displaying the proximity of the hailed taxi.

“They’re improving and I think they should be given the opportunity to improve so passenger safety isn’t jeopardized and thousands of families aren’t bankrupted,” Bains said.

The province has said Uber would have to get Passenger Transportation Branch approval and overcome other hurdles, such as insurance requirements.

Bains said the ride-hailing service should have to meet the same requirements as taxis, including background and criminal record checks and regular vehicle inspections.

He denied the NDP has sided with the taxi industry.

“We are trying to protect the integrity of the system the government has put in place.”

Bains also accused Stone of sending different messages when discussing Uber with South Asian and mainstream media outlets, and of hosting “secret meetings” with Uber reps.

Uber’s two registered lobbyists in B.C. are former staffers of the premier’s.

“They have a direct line to the premier’s office,” Bains charged, adding that’s “very very worrisome to the taxi industry.”

More than 20 B.C. tech business leaders last week wrote an open lettter calling on the province to take the necessary steps to open B.C. to ride-sharing services.

So far Surrey city council has taken no position of support on behalf of either Uber or the incumbent taxi industry.

Some other councils, including Langley Township, have urged the province to enable Uber under a regulated model.

– with files from Tom Fletcher

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in Saanich parkland

The birds don’t often touch down in the south of the Island

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

(Victoria Cool Aid Society/Facebook)
Victoria food drive aims to feed those also struggling with housing

Quadra Village furniture store hosting drive-thru event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Victoria police are asking for witnesses who might have information about this tricycle that was stolen in downtown Victoria on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Police seek witnesses after downtown Victoria company’s tricycle stolen

The three-wheeler was taken from the 2100-block of Store Street on Thursday

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Most Read