The provincial elections in British Columbia are set for May 9th, and the New Democratic Party (NDP) is looking to wrestle control of the province away from the reigning Liberal party. According to recent polls, the NDP has a slight advantage over the Liberal party with support sitting at 29 per cent compared to 26 per cent. But with the recent American presidential election, we all know polls don't really mean anything. Some of the election issues raised this cycle has been hail-riding services, such as Uber and Lyft, which are currently unable to operate in BC due to certain laws. The Liberal government says it will allow said services into the province, should they be re-elected in the upcoming elections. The NDP announced their stance on the opposite end and said they would scrap the proposal if elected in support of the existing taxi industry.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone recently commented that he wants ride-hailing services to buy additional auto insurance from ICBC that would see them pay extra when a paying passenger is in their vehicle. "The insurance will kick in when that app is turned on and kick off when the app is turned off," said Stone. "It's distance based, based on kilometers traveled, it's not an insurance approach that is just attached to your vehicle. That's the only way it works with the ride (hailing) model. There's a bit more work to refine that but we're making some good progress there." "We have the advantage of being able to look at other jurisdictions. We also believe our unique situation here in BC, as a public auto insurer providing all basic insurance, will allow us to do this effectively." Stone is referring to the kind of insurance that already exists in Alberta and Ontario, where Uber buys insurance on behalf of its drivers. The special insurance they purchase includes a $2 million of third-party liability coverage for the duration of each trip. Some of the opposition to the proposal would be the taxi industry. As seen by the many markets where ride-hailing companies have entered, the taxi industry often sees a severe reduction in their client pool since they are wooed away by the cheaper fare and convenience offered by Uber and Lyft.
The BC Taxi Association president Mohan King said the taxi industry will gather in the upcoming Monday in Surrey for a meeting to discuss their position and future action. They currently fear the ride-hailing companies will put drive them out of business. The Liberal government has also offered the taxi industry certain advantages in the proposal which includes $1 million to develop an app that will compete with ride-hailing companies, as well as $3.5 million in crash avoidance technology for cabs, a relaxation of geographic restrictions on taxi companies and exclusive rights to pick up passengers by phone, by street hail or at taxi stands. Stone also said they are exploring a possibility of a new insurance package for traditional taxis, which would allow the service to pay per kilometer traveled instead of purchasing it monthly. This will allow taxi operators to field more taxis on the road during peak hours and pay less in insurance when their fleet is sitting idle. Uber has recently released a statement that they will be working with BC to develop a provincial insurance model.