The province has announced that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are coming to B.C. in a matter of months — but taxi advocates say they're planning to challenge the decision.
Todd Stone, minister of transportation and infrastructure, said the government hopes to introduce the services in December.
"British Columbians have made it very clear that there is a demand for services that ride-hailing companies provide," Stone said Tuesday.
To ensure a "level playing field" between the ride-hailing companies and existing taxi services, Stone said the government plans to introduce several measures, including:
- New, app-based technology allowing the public to hire and pay for cabs as they would a shared ride. (Cost: $1 million)
- New crash-prevention software in all B.C. taxis to improve passenger safety and avoid collisions. (Cost: $3.5 million)
- Granting taxis exclusive rights to be hired by phone, at a stand, or from the curb.
- Giving cabs and ride-hailing drivers equal access to cross municipal boundaries.
- Addressing the provincial taxi shortage.
"Our approach over the next nine months will be to continue to be very thoughtful and very deliberate ... to introduce a fulsome sweep of policies that will be well-informed. We want to get this worked out soon and get it worked out right," Stone said.
Despite the government's promise of healthy competition, the Vancouver Taxi Association says the decision is not fair to its drivers.
Spokeswoman Carolyn Bauer said the association plans to challenge the move in court.
"They say it's an even playing field, but they're lowering the standards all the way around ... the government-proposed method of deregulating the taxi industry is going to destroy the small business and livelihoods of Vancouver Taxi Association owners," she told CBC News.
"We're not opposed to change at all ... but it has to be done in a way that protects the investment of current taxi licence holders.
Bauer said the group plans to "use every available legal and political means to fight" the initiative.
The province said taxis and ride-hailing companies will be held to the same safety standards. All drivers must:
- Have at least a Class 5 driver's licence. Class 4 licences will be phased out.
- Be at least 19 years of age.
- Pass a safe driving record check.
- Have vehicles inspected regularly.
- Pass a criminal record check for past convictions of violent and/or sexual offences, as well as other crimes.
The City of Vancouver has also been opposed to ride-hailing in the past. Last fall, council enacted a moratorium barring Uber from breaking into the city and halting any new taxi licences until at least October 2017.
Coun. Geoff Meggs admitted that changes to the industry were "warranted," but said the city wanted to wait until a provincial review of the taxi industry that begun in January 2016 before considering alternative options.
Susie Heath, a spokesperson for Uber Canada, said the announcement was "a step forward by the provincial government" and that it "encouraged all parties in British Columbia to commit to bringing forward progressive regulations that embrace ride sharing in 2017."
The government said it will be working with taxi drivers, police departments, municipalities, airports, Road Safety B.C. and ICBC to create a rollout plan.
Previously, Metro Vancouver had been the largest metropolitan region in North America without a ride-hailing service.
With files from CBC's Richard Zussman