On Monday, November 19, the BC Government introduced legislation paving the way for Uber and other ride sharing apps to be legalized in the province. This legislation follows a 2017 election promise to bring in ride sharing if elected, and years of consultations with both the general public and the taxi industry, which is strongly opposed to the creation of ride sharing in British Columbia.
The legislation being brought forward includes a number of requirements for individuals who wish to be a driver for a ride sharing app, including the need to have a class four commercial driver’s licence and a completed criminal background check. Individuals joining a ride share app will also have to purchase a new form of car insurance, which ICBC is currently tasked with creating in anticipation of the late 2019 app launch date.
Thus far, industry seems supportive of the proposed legislation and considers it a good first step, with Uber’s head of cities for the west stating that the legislation looks like a good first step, but that they need more detail before they can move ahead with ride sharing in BC. Uber indicated that they are working with MLAs in all three parties to ensure that as many people as possible are able to participate.
While all three political parties in the Legislature are looking forward to the inclusion of ride sharing in BC, other groups outside of the government are expressing concerns. The BC Federation of Labour is concerned about how drivers will be treated by the companies that they work for, and note that in most other cities the drivers are considered independent contractors. By being considered independent contractors instead of direct employees of the ride sharing companies, this can impact the drivers’ ability to ensure wage security, and impacts the way the drivers pay taxes. The Federation of Labour is hoping that the government will give consideration in future legislation to ensuring the rights of drivers to fair pay rates and other issues covered by labour legislation.
In response to the BC Federation of Labour’s concerns, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson suggested that issues of wages and driver protection could be best addressed by the drivers and the market itself, and further suggested that the NDP was already providing too many regulations that were impeding bringing ride sharing to British Columbia. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver also notes that many drivers do not do it as their main job, and that it is used as supplemental income, so those drivers would already be protected and have some of their labour concerns addressed through their main job.
While there remain a number of significant barriers before Uber and other companies can operate in British Columbia, the enabling legislation is being put into place. There are finally signs that concrete steps are being taken by the BC government to ensure that ride sharing is given a place in the transportation market in a way that does not completely displace the taxi industry, and which also protects the rights of drivers and potential customers. The government continues to believe that ride sharing will be open for use by the end of 2019, with any potential other concerns being addressed in the spring 2019 sitting of the legislature.