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Manitoba Taxicab Board eyes Uber-friendly regulatory changes
At a meeting in January, the board recommended that drivers of ride-hailing companies, such as Uber or Lyft, be able to register under the executive car class.
Feb. 28, 2017
Stephanie Taylor

The Manitoba Taxicab Board is looking at taking the first steps to make room for the future arrival of ridesharing companies like Uber.

But it's a move one board member argues will create an unfair “two-tier” industry in Winnipeg.

Allowing transportation network companies, such as Uber or Lyft, to operate in the local market was one of 40 recommendations outlined in a review of the industry released last December.

Ridesharing companies allow passengers to pre-book rides through apps and pay via credit card after the ride.

Users are also able to see information about their driver and ratings from previous customers.

Consultant MNP LLP's report found a demand for Uber among online survey participants, stating it would increase competition, create new options for consumers and drive down prices.

The board quietly accepted the review on Jan. 5, and discussed some of its next steps for the recommendations.

An in-camera report prepared for the board obtained by Metro shows it lacks the power to license dispatch companies without a legislative change to The Taxicab Act.

However, it says some regulations could be tweaked so new ridesharing services could operate in the industry—if they ever arrive.

“It is the intent of the board to allow this under the existing act and regulation by allowing drivers to register under the executive car criteria,” the document reads, adding this change would define Uber as a dispatch service.

According to board chairman Randy Williams, an executive car is a vehicle with a carpet, air conditioning, power windows and cloth or leather seats.

“They are already licensed and they don’t have meters, they have a variable rate they can charge, so we already have the model in the City of Winnipeg,” he said in an interview Monday.

“That makes your car an executive car, my car an executive car."

He added the only difference between an executive car company and ridesharing service like Uber is an app.

As of Tuesday, Williams said none of changes discussed around the MNP report have been formally made and anticipates more decisions will be made next month.

According to the board’s document, Uber drivers would be required to hold both a taxi drivers’ licence and a taxi business licence under the executive car class.

Also, the board is proposing to do away with the minimum rate for executive cars while keeping with the maximum rate of $83.40 per hour.

The document specifies that Manitoba Public Insurance can accommodate Uber.

During his annual state of the city address last week, Mayor Brian Bowman pledged to work with the taxicab board to welcome Uber.

"We look forward to bringing Uber to the province soon so that Manitobans can benefit from another safe, reliable way to get around their communities and flexible income earning opportunity,” a spokesperson for Uber Canada wrote in an email to Metro on Monday.

“Additionally, we were pleased to see Mayor Bowman's comments last week expressing support for ridesharing in Winnipeg.”

Board member Coun. Ross Eadie believes that by opening the door to ridesharing companies under the executive car class it’s creating a “two-tier” industry.

“What we have now is we have areas in this city where people live in poverty and cannot get a credit card, so what’s happening is Uber is not serving that,” he said Monday.

“Uber creates a two-tier system.”

He adds the board ought to ensure the playing field is level for the entire taxi industry – a concern voiced in the MNP report and by standard cab drivers in other Canadian cities.

For example, Eadie says the standard taxi industry is required to provide a certain number of accessible cabs, but questions why the same would not be mandated of the executive car class.