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'A complete failure': Liberal MLA blasts B.C. NDP for 'broken promises' on ride-hailing

Last Updated Dec 25, 2019 at 7:16 am PDT

An Uber car in Vancouver. Uber

Despite promises ride-hailing would be available in B.C. by Christmas, British Columbians are out of luck

Liberal MLA says NDP's promise to bring ride-hailing to B.C. by the Christmas holiday is a 'complete failure'

When B.C. finally does see ride-hailing come, Jas Johal says the quality will be different because of regulations

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Christmas Day has finally come, but the chance of you catching an Uber or Lyft in B.C. before the new year is probably none.

Despite saying ride-hailing would be available in the province by Dec. 25, 2019, British Columbians are out of luck as companies continue to wait for approval to operate.

“That’s a complete failure on the NDP’s part,” Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal said.

Johal, who also served on B.C.’s all-party committee on ride-hailing, noted the B.C. government has promised ride-hailing services would be made available a number of times, but with just a week to go before New Year’s Eve, the chances of you getting into one are about as slim as your chances of getting a ride in Santa’s sleigh.

“They promised ride-hailing by the end of 2017, it didn’t happen. End of 2018, they promised by Halloween of 2019, then Thanksgiving, and the minister and the premier both said it would be here by Christmas, and here we are, no ride-hailing in Vancouver and most of British Columbia,” he told NEWS 1130. “And it’s got to be disappointing. Look, they said it’s coming, we thought perhaps we’d have ride-hailing for Christmas party season, it’s certainly not there, and here we are on Christmas Day and no ride-hailing.”

The only company to receive approval from the Passenger Transportation Board so far is Whistle, which will, for the time being, operate in the Whistler-area and on parts of Vancouver Island.

Following news of the operator’s approval, B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said she understands people want to see ride-hailing vehicles hit the road, but added the decision on applications is up to the PTB, which “is working through [them] in a way that they see fit.”

The board is apparently looking over two dozen applications at the moment.

However, when British Columbians finally do see ride-hailing come, Johal said your ride will likely be different than in other cities and countries, because of all the red tape.

“Ride-hailing in British Columbia, once it does come, will not be of the same quality that we see in other parts of Canada, the United States, and Europe, simply because of the barriers the NDP government and their friends and insiders have put on the industry, particularly around Class 4 licensing, right up to fees being charged per vehicle in different municipalities,” he explained. “British Columbians, particularly Vancouverites, have every right to be angry… It makes me frustrated, and it makes me angry, as well.”

On Dec. 12, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation voted to let ride-hailing operators pick up and drop off customers across Metro Vancouver, without forcing each municipality to approve a separate licence. The goal is to have interim licensing in place across the region by Jan. 31, and a permanent framework completed by the end of 2020.

Ride-hailing and affordability

Johal believes the delays are hurting British Columbians on the affordability front. He said he learned that ride-hailing is generally 20 to 25 per cent cheaper than taking a cab in North America — something he says could help a lot of people.

“It provides mobility, it allows people to get around. And to think that the government is finding ways to stifle people’s mobility is incredibly offensive,” he said. “This falls at the feet of Premier Horgan and his Transportation Minister, Claire Trevena. This has been a complete and utter failure.”

He added while B.C. waits for ride-hailing, Kazakhstan is nearing two years of having the service available in that country.

“It’s embarrassing that here we are, in 2019 — at the end of 2019 — and we still don’t have ride-hailing,” Johal said.

Aside from ride-hailing generally being cheaper, he said having the option of taking a ride-hailing service while out and about gives people another safe option to get around.

And with 2020 knocking on the door, Johal doesn’t believe people will have the option of ride-hailing to get to and from their celebrations on Dec. 31.

“You want to give them the option to call a ride-hailing service, because we all know, around closing time, there’s going to be lineups of an hour or two long. There is a constant complaint, every Friday and Saturday night, every holiday — but particularly on New Year’s Eve — people are waiting an hour or two for a cab, or no cab is showing up at all.

“Christmas Day, we should be celebrating ride-hailing,” Johal added. “Instead, the NDP government gives taxpayers a lump of coal. That’s the offensive part.”

-With files from Martin MacMahon and Marcella Bernardo