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

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Metro Creative Connection Photo.
Mission council decides to revert back to ‘lifetime’ fire-pit permits

District moving towards restriction, rather than prohibition, of backyard burns

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

John Redekop, with wife Doris, was the 2019 recipient of the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from UFV. (Photo courtesy of UFV)
Nominations open until Oct. 30 for UFV’s Betty Urquhart Awards

Award recognizes ‘significant impact’ of volunteer work by an individual or group

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows’ NDP incumbent Lisa Beare, believes Reese Witherspoon – seen here in the series “The Morning Show,” could best play her on the big screen. (Special to The News Apple TV+/TNS)
Maple Ridge candidates cast themselves in dramatic comedies

ELECTION LEVITY: MLA hopefuls reveal who should play them on the silver screen

Two recent flights into Abbotsford International Airport have had recent COVID-19 exposures, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
Two flights into Abbotsford have had recent COVID-19 exposures

Centre for Disease Control asks passengers to monitor for symptoms for 14 days

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson,  BC NDP leader John Horgan and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. (File)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Climate change and sustainability promises from the parties

Snap election has led to a short campaign; here’s the lowdown on the platforms

Most Read