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Throne speech: Sask. government urges municipalities to allow Uber as a way to put brakes on impaired driving
Oct. 25, 2017
Pamela Cowan

The province wants to put the brakes on drunk driving by urging municipalities to allow ride-sharing services, like Uber, to operate within their jurisdictions.

Ride sharing was one of several measures to reduce impaired driving that was announced in Wednesday’s throne speech.

Additionally, the province will work with smaller communities to attract or establish a ride sourcing network for rural residents so people have another option for a safe ride home. 

“I like the idea if it makes our roads safer,” said Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM).

He thinks a rural ride sourcing network would benefit rural residents and urban restaurant owners.

“If a farmer wants to come to town and take his wife out for supper and have a glass of wine he could be more relaxed if he knew he had a ride home,” Orb said. “People tend to stay home more now in the rural areas, so this idea might bring back social activity.”

Michelle Okere, chapter services manager with MADD Saskatchewan, endorsed the new plan.

“We have to make sure that we have the availability of safe, convenient and reliable transportation options,” Okere said. “And obviously recognizing that lot of our smaller communities don’t have that right now.”

She noted Uber is more likely to operate at late hours.

“There might be surge pricing, but at least there’s the availability of transportation when sometimes cabs or other options aren’t necessarily available,” she said.

Saskatchewan’s high rate of impaired driving has been a long-standing problem, said Yorkton’s mayor, Bob Maloney.

“Anything we can do to make it better is certainly a good idea because the message doesn’t seem to be getting through,” Maloney said. “My only concern is the insurance side of it.”

The government will introduce legislation enabling SGI to offer affordable insurance to drivers working for ride sourcing companies like Uber and Lyft.

The Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association (STCA) is concerned about the government’s plans to introduce legislation to allow transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber to operate in the province.

“Our biggest concerns are the possible safety standards being de-regulated and some of our current bylaws being de-regulated to let the TNCs, which would like Uber and Lyft,” said Shondra Boire, STCA spokesperson and operations manager at Comfort Cab in Saskatoon.

The STCA has been lobbying for part-time taxis to work flex hours during peak times.

“We know we need more taxis on the road, we want to put more taxis on the road, but our current bylaw in the city handcuffs us from doing that because they regulate how many taxis are on the road … Let us expand and contract as we need,” Boire said.

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere believes competition breeds excellence in the market place.

“From a public policy perspective, to have ride share related to reducing drinking and driving, this is a a very strong message and we support that,” he said.

Saskatoon’s Mayor Charlie Clark said the city is “working to learn from the experiences of other cities, steal the best regulations and try and create as level a playing field as possible between the ride sharing and the taxi industry.”

“As a city council, we have to ensure that there is a safe, accessible convenient transportation system out there and taxis and ride sharing play a part of that,” Clark said.

Getting a cab can be particularly tough when bars close, he noted.

“Both the taxi industry and ride sharing are looking at adding more options out there on the street,” Clark said. “If that can be the case, so that people take other options instead of driving home drunk, then that’s certainly a good thing. We do have work to do in this province to improve on that.”