Surrey mayor vows to block ride-hailing companies, but province says city can't

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum vowed Tuesday to prevent ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft from operating in his city once they launch in B.C. later this fall. But the provincial government quickly responded, saying municipalities don't have that authority.

The mayor appeared Tuesday afternoon at a Vancouver Taxi Association meeting held at the Fraserview Banquet Hall in East Vancouver.

In a video shared online, McCallum told hundreds of taxi drivers and industry supporters that ride-hailing companies need a business licence to operate in Surrey, B.C.'s second-largest city.

"We will not be issuing any business licence to ride-sharing companies," McCallum told the cheering crowd.

"I will continually fight on your behalf," he added, "to make sure that you have a fair playing field."

The mayor's remarks come in the wake of a recent judicial review filed by nine Vancouver-based taxi companies.

They're asking the Supreme Court of B.C. to quash rules recently introduced by the Passenger Transportation Board that would allow ride-hailing to begin in the province by the end of this year.

The B.C. Ministry of Transportation said in a statement late Tuesday that the city can't prevent ride-hailing companies from operating.

The ministry acknowledged municipalities can mandate business licences, but said that only the Passenger Transportation Board can regulate taxis and ride-hailing vehicles, including the control of supply, boundaries and rates.

Eyeing court injunction

McCallum has long voiced his opposition to ride-hailing companies.

He wrote an open letter to Premier John Horgan in late August criticizing new provincial regulations that he says will create an uneven playing field for the province's taxi industry. 

The Associated Press

Ride-hailing companies will be able to operate in larger geographical areas, unlike taxi companies in the Lower Mainland, which can only pick up passengers from the municipality where they've been licensed.

"Governments have got to realize that you need to be equal," he told the crowd Tuesday.

Carolyn Bauer, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Taxi Association, said an estimated 600 drivers turned out to the meeting, which centred on the association's legal battle against the Passenger Transportation Board.

She said the association's judicial review is meant to address other imbalances, including the province not capping ride-hailing fleet sizes and offering ride-hailing companies discounted insurance rates.

Bauer said the association's next step will be a court injunction.

Ride-hailing companies Uber, Lyft, Kater and TappCar have all said they're submitting applications to the Passenger Transportation Board to operate in B.C.