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Letter demanding Uber stay out of Surrey unexpected, unrealistic, undemocratic: councillor

Last Updated Jan 25, 2020 at 8:01 am PDT

Summary

A councillor says a letter telling Uber to get off Surrey's roads came as a complete shock

Jack Hundial says the issue of ride-hailing has never come to council and the letter reflects the will of the mayor

The Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation has voted in favour of a 'regional' approach to licencing

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — A letter sent to Uber from the city of Surrey is demanding the ride-hailing company cease operations in the city, a move one councillor says was likely made at the behest of the mayor.

Mayor Doug McCallum has been a vocal opponent of ride-hailing, but the letter saying drivers who come to the city after 9 p.m. Friday risk a $500 fine came as a surprise to councillor Jack Hundial.

“Ride-share has never come to council yet, for any sort of discussion,” he says. “We have a mayor that continues to support his friends and not the people. This is really very similar to the police transition, going against the will of the people.”

Hundial says bylaw officers in the city aren’t trained to stop vehicles.

“How do we even enforce that? Even in our bylaw department, how do they intervene with that? Really we have to think about the safety of the staff as well.”

In December, at a a meeting of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, McCallum cast the lone vote in opposition to a motion making it easier for ride-hailing providers to operate in the region. The mayors voted in favour of a regional licencing framework which will allow ride-hailing operators pick up and drop off customers without forcing each municipality to approve a separate licence.

Hundial says licencing is important, but penalizing ride-hailing operators is misguided and he doesn’t see a reason why Surrey would go against the approach being adopted by other cities in the region.

“Transportation is a regional issue. This is an opportunity for mayors to work together and not for Surrey to be singled out once again, going on its own with a mayor who’s not really listening to the vast majority of the people here.”

He is frustrated that Surrey isn’t taking the approach of other municipalities, like North Vancouver.

In a statement Friday morning, McCallum said provincial approval of Uber and Lyft hasn’t changed his stance.

“What continues to be my chief concern is the unfair advantage that has been created without any regard as to how it will impact those who are employed in the taxi industry,” he explains. “It is no secret that a large percentage of cab drivers live in Surrey and the modest wages they earn go to support their families.”

McCallum argues the taxi industry already meets all the needs of passengers.

Hundial agrees fairness should be kept in mind.

“We need to have a fair and equitable playing field for everyone. That also includes riders and the residents. We can’t keep catering to special interest groups, or friends that get special treatment.”

Premier John Horgan said Thursday that approval from the province means Uber and Lyft can’t be kept out of Surrey.

“Our legislation makes it pretty clear that they can’t,” Horgan says. “I respect Mr McCallum’s view on this but we can’t restrict activities in Surrey as opposed to Coquitlam, or Richmond. These companies will be able to operate in the Lower Mainland, they will be permitted by the Passenger Transportation Board and our legislation provides for that.”

Surrey city council meets Monday, and Hundial says he and fellow councillor Brenda Locke will raise the issue of the letter during that meeting.

With files from Toby Kerr, Lisa Steacy, Tarnjit Parmar and Marcella Bernardo