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IN THE LEDGE – ‘Government has completely bungled ride-sharing file’

From Question Period in the B.C. Legislature on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 during debate involving MLA Jane Thornthwaite (BC Liberal), Minister of Transportation Claire Tevena, MLA Jas Johal (BC Liberal) and BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver on ride sharing. The government announced this week that plans to introduce ride sharing — which would be provided by companies like Uber — will be delayed until next year.

J. Thornthwaite: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Transportation proudly told us that she finally read the report from her high-priced consultant. Better late than never. Now we know the minister’s problems with timelines, and her own consultant confirms this. Dan Hara tells the CBC: “Presumably, there will be, especially if something is to go forward, more formal public hearings and processes.”

Let that sink in: “if something is to go forward.” Even the NDP’s high-priced help doesn’t know if the minister will ever introduce ride-sharing. To the minister: you’ve missed 2017 for introducing ride-sharing. Can you give my constituents a date, a timeline, anything, when we will see ride-sharing in British Columbia?

Hon. C. Trevena: Well, Mr. Speaker, we can understand why that side of the House, when they were in government, realized that they couldn’t get it done by the end of the year, as they said in their throne speech of June 2017. They did say, in June 2017: “Your government” — of the time — “has heard the message that legitimate implementation concerns remain. Any proposed legislation will be referred to an all-party committee for extensive consultation with the public and stakeholders — in particular, regarding boundaries and insurance.”

That side of the House finally saw the light, realized it was a complex problem and acknowledged it will take a little longer. We are doing the prudent thing. We have hired a consultant who is looking at the taxi industry. We are engaged with the ride-share companies. We will make change.

Mr. Speaker: The member for North Vancouver–Seymour on a supplemental.

J. Thornthwaite: The minister has completely bungled this file. She doesn’t have a grasp on this file, and will not give a straight answer to when, or even if, ride-sharing will be introduced. She’s rehired the same guy who did a taxi report last year, and he admits that the minister may never introduce anything. It would be comical if it wasn’t so pathetic.

All I’m asking today is clarity. Could the Minister of Transportation tell this House when ride-sharing will come to B.C.? Is it going to be 2018, 2019, 2020 or, gosh forbid, never?

Hon. C. Trevena: What is comical is the level of passion from that side of the House, who were in government since before 2012 — when Uber first came to B.C. and said: “We want to introduce ride-sharing.” What have we seen? Nothing.

Our government is going to act. We are going to bring in ride-share. We are engaged with the ride-hailing companies. We’re engaged with the taxi industry, and we will make change.

Mr. Speaker: The member for North Vancouver–Seymour on a second supplemental.

J. Thornthwaite: What the minister forgets is that when British Columbians voted this spring, they were promised, by all three parties, ride-sharing by the end of this year. Instead, the minister has strung along my constituents, including Zach from Deep Cove. Zach has written to me about how deeply disappointed he is: “The NDP is going back on their promise.” Zach says we don’t need any more studies. He just wants to know when the minister is going to actually get on with it.

Will the minister tell Zach and the rest of my constituents and this House when she will introduce ride-sharing like she promised? And, if not, why not?

Hon. C. Trevena: It’s my recollection that that member of the House, along with, I think, all the members of that side of the House, voted in favour of a throne speech in June which said there would be delays in bringing in ride-sharing.

J. Johal: Clearly, there won’t be ride-sharing in B.C. this year — another broken NDP promise. Instead, the government is getting a report on taxi modernization from a high-paid Ottawa expert on taxis — not on ride-sharing, not on innovation, but on taxis.

Given this government’s level of reports and consultations, there will be another report after this one, and then another one, followed by consultations. We’re in the midst of consultation paralysis, thanks to the Minister of Transportation and her government. Just yesterday in question period, the minister said she was going to see what comes from the review.

Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the question.

J. Johal: Then she said they would be talking to ride-sharing companies.

To the minister of taxis. When asked how much a taxi modernization report cost, you told Jon McComb on CKNW: “Within this current budget, there was $165,000 available.” How many future budgets does she imagine will be needed?

Hon. C. Trevena: I’m not quite sure how often I have to tell the opposition that we are committed to bringing ride-share to this province.

The opposition is obviously very confused about this. I mean, one of the people who wants to be the Leader of the Opposition, who’s going to lead the opposition for many, many years to come when he takes over has said: “It is my belief our party rushed too quickly to welcome Uber to British Columbia. We need to develop a road map to get this improved service for consumers that maintains passenger safety, treats everyone fairly and creates a level playing field for the competition.”

That’s exactly what we will be doing as government.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Richmond-Queensborough on a supplemental.

J. Johal: I remind the member that we’re talking about your election promises and your government. You have to answer to the people of British Columbia. I want to add the report…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members, please. We shall hear the question.

Thank you.

J. Johal: …on taxi modernization comes from an author who has donated to the NDP. The report terms of reference could have been written by the taxi lobby from Vancouver. Coincidentally, they donated a big chunk of change to the provincial NDP.

In the three months leading up to the election, taxi companies and associations donated over $50,000 to the NDP. The taxi lobby also donated significantly to Vision Vancouver, who was kind enough, of course, to provide the Premier with his chief of staff and other senior staffers.

Given all of the above, how can the citizens of British Columbia trust the minister to bring in a truly fair set of rules for ride-sharing — and how many consultations and how many more delays?

Hon. C. Trevena: How many more times do I have to tell the House and to the members opposite that we are bringing in ride-share, that we are doing consultations and that we will be bringing in legislation for ride-share?

A. Weaver: The righteous indignation emanating from members opposite on this file is truly something to behold. Two years ago the member for Kamloops–South Thompson, the then Minister of Transportation, said that this former government was going to bring in ride-sharing, but he got soundly smacked down by somebody, and we don’t have it.

Twice before, I brought in a bill.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members, the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head has the floor.

A. Weaver: On Monday the government provided British Columbians with a road map for how introduction of ride-sharing will happen in our province.

One could be forgiven for finding the announcement somewhat underwhelming. Gone was the end-of-year timeline — or any firm timeline at all, for that matter. Instead, we’re now going to embark on a review of the taxi industry, without engaging ride-share companies and without considering the impact that they might have. In essence, we’ll waste time and money to establish a new status quo.

To the Minister of Transportation: why are we making an effort to update legislation for the taxi industry without even engaging ride-sharing companies and considering the changes they may force on this industry?

Hon. C. Trevena: We are engaging with the ride-share companies.

Source: BC Hansard (Draft transcript).

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About Mel Rothenburger (5078 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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