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Mayors discuss region-wide ride-hailing licence behind closed doors amid heated battle in Surrey

Last Updated Jan 30, 2020 at 1:53 pm PDT

FILE - The Uber App is pictured on a smartphone in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, December 30, 2019. British Columbia's Passenger Transportation Board has granted long-awaited licensing approvals to ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft for service in the Lower Mainland and Whistler. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The meeting of Metro Vancouver mayors won't be open to the public since the ride-hailing proposal isn't ready yet

Municipalities will still be given the option to opt-in to the licencing program

Surrey has been tangled in controversy since ride-hailing drivers hit the road last week, ticketing some drivers

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you hop into an Uber or Lyft in Metro Vancouver, your ride doesn’t have a licence to operate — unless we’re talking about Vancouver, specifically.

Local mayors were set to hash out the details at a meeting Thursday, after voting last month to allow operators to pick up and drop off customers across Metro Vancouver through a regional licence. But the meeting won’t be open to the public since the ride-hailing proposal isn’t ready yet.

“But I think really this is about respecting the work that the city staff has been working towards this. Then ultimately releasing the information in the framework,” says Jonathan Cote, Mayor’s council chair, adding the work should be finished soon. He says an announcement could come Friday, or early next week.

So far, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum hasn’t let on if the city will opt-in for a regional licence.

“We’re going to be discussing that in our in-camera, and I’m going leave it to that particular time,” he says.

Cote says he believes a regional licence can be implemented regardless of a municipalities stance.

“I think even if you do have one or two municipalities that don’t join immediately…we continue municipalities so that they would hopefully join at a later date,” he says. But municipalities will still be given the option to opt-in to the licencing program.

The idea is to give ride-hailing firms the ability to apply for one licence to operate in a group of municipalities, as opposed to having to apply for an individual one in each city.

Right now, the only community in the region to offer a specific licence to the likes of Uber and Lyft is the City of Vancouver.

Proponents also argue it would be beneficial to have consistent rules throughout Metro Vancouver — both for customers and companies.

Meanwhile, Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena says the government is working with ICBC and the taxi industry to create new insurance options. It is meant to ensure fairness for people making a living in the passenger transportation industry.

“The insurance product will be based on the per-kilometre distance travelled with passengers aboard and is equivalent to what is available for ride-hailing vehicles,” Trevena explains. “In the near future, taxi drivers who want this new product will be able to switch their insurance, with coverage beginning in the spring. Drivers who wish to keep their current form of coverage will not be affected.”

Surrey has been tangled in controversy since the first ride-hailing vehicles hit the road in B.C. last week, with bylaw officers handing drivers warnings and tickets by reportedly baiting them in that city.

Uber has since taken legal action, asking the B.C. Supreme Court to issue an injunction to stop the city’s approach. The company stands by the fact Surrey still doesn’t have a business licence the company can purchase.

In the meantime, it has said the company will continue to offer rides and has even told some drivers not to pay fines they’ve been slapped with.

Surrey’s mayor cast the lone vote in opposition to the motion to make it easier for ride-hailing providers to operate in Metro Vancouver last month.

-With files from Marcella Bernardo and Tarnjit Parmar