Uber's drive to Manitoba to become clearer Monday

Uber's path to the Manitoba market is expected to become a little clearer when the Pallister government introduces new legislation Monday.

The Local Vehicles for Hire Act is expected to put into motion the legislation needed for Uber and other ride-sharing services to enter the Manitoba market.

However, Manitobans will have to wait until Monday to see how that legislation takes shape when Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke introduces it in the afternoon.

The news comes after a report prepared by MNP for the Taxicab Board released in December recommended the city expand its options for customers.

In a prepared statement sent Thursday, Clarke said the government has reviewed the report's recommendations and is prepared to introduce legislation to "move the plan forward."

Mayor Brian Bowman made a public push for the ride-sharing app last month in his state of the city address.

Bowman said he plans to work with the provincial Taxicab Board to welcome Uber or a service like it to the city.

He will wait and see what is tabled by the provincial government, but thinks it is time to find a way for Uber to enter the market, according to his spokesperson Jeremy Davis.

"As the Mayor has said previously, he wants to see a direction that works best for the citizens of Winnipeg and the local taxicab industry. Since nothing has been tabled yet, we need to wait until we hear the direction from province," Davis said in a prepared statement.

Uber's entry often met with controversy 

In March of 2016, Edmonton became the first city in Canada to pass a bylaw authorizing and regulating ride-hailing businesses.

​Since then, Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto and Waterloo have followed suit, and regulatory reviews are underway in a handful of other cities in Ontario. Most recently British Columbia announced legislation that would allow Uber to operate in the province.

However, its entry has been met with controversy and opposition by the taxi industry, who argue Uber is allowed to operate outside of the regulations imposed on the standard taxi industry.

Issues have been raised in other cities pertaining to the lack of insurance and license requirements for Uber drivers.

The Winnipeg Taxi Alliance, which represents Duffy's Taxi and Unicity Taxi, says it is ready for Uber to enter the Manitoba market — but only if Uber operates on a level playing field with the rest of the taxi industry.

Alliance spokesperson Michael Diamond said he can't comment on the legislation until he see it, but wants to see regulations that ensure market equality and customer safety.

"We are ready to compete as long as competition is fair," Diamond said. "Whatever changes are introduced we just hope it maintains a level playing field."

Uber Canada spokesperson Susie Heath said they look forward to "bringing Uber to the province soon." 

"Additionally, we were pleased to see Mayor Bowman's comments expressing support for ride-sharing in Winnipeg," she said in a prepared statement.

Monday marks the last day the government can be guaranteed a bill is passed this session, so the Tories have indicated they will introduce several.