'There really isn't a delay': Transportation minister says of ride-hailing hold ups

'There really isn't a delay': Transportation minister says of ride-hailing hold ups

The B.C. NDP recently announced its plans to introduce ride-hailing services to the province by 2019. Vancouver is the largest municipality in North America without legal ride-hailing services. 

On the Coast guest host Matthew Lazin-Ryder spoke with Transportation Minister Claire Trevena to try to understand why it's taking the province so long to introduce ride-hailing legislation. 

This government campaigned on a promise to bring ride-hailing services to B.C. by the end of 2017. Now, it looks like we'll wait until 2019. What is the delay?

There really isn't a delay. We want to get this done right. We're looking to get the number of taxis on the road up by about 500 in the province. Then, we're looking at starting to get that data collection that we need to get a proper, modern system.

The second stage is the legislation, which really is ensuring that people will be able to travel safely, drivers will be able to operate safely. That is my No. 1 concern.

There are other places in Canada where ride-hailing works? Why can't we just take what they've done there and apply it here?

We have a different structure in B.C. We are unique. We have both provincial and municipal involvement, we have the passenger transportation board which is an independent tribunal. Looking at it methodically, having the full consultations we've been having, means that when we do deliver, it'll be a product that everyone can feel confident in.

What risks are you seeing in Canada or abroad that you are trying to avoid here?

There are a number of things. We obviously have a very high safety threshold. We are dealing with insurance, we're dealing with congestion and that's why we want to make sure we get the data.

Why try to preserve the taxi industry if ride-hailing provides a more convenient alternative?

We have many thousands of people in B.C. whose lives depend on the taxi industry. What we're doing is modernizing the taxi industry and improving our legislation so it both modernizes the taxi industry and enables ride-sharing.

Ride share, if they wanted to come in now, could come in right now. They just choose not to because the rules, they believe, are too stringent. They have the opportunity, we haven't seen any applications. We're making things easier.

Why not focus government resources on helping taxi drivers find other ways of supporting themselves rather than protecting the industry as a whole?

This is several stages on from where we are. We're opening the way for new services to come in. There will obviously be, at that stage, the competition and people will have that choice. That's down the road. Let's make sure we have an industry that is modernized as best we can.

The NDP has received $223,000 in donations from the taxi industry since 2005. To what degree has that influenced your decision making here?

As far as I'm concerned, it's had no influence. What I'm looking at is public policy. I'm looking at ensuring that we have an existing industry that is allowed to develop in a modern way. In B.C., there are more than 8,000 families that depend on taxis; 8,000 jobs that are there. That's a significant issue.

People do expect to be able to use the newest techniques. People want that. Our legislation is old and we need to renew it. And that's what we're going to do in the fall.

This interview was edited for clarity; you can listen to the full interview below.

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