Today in the Legislature the government brought forward a motion to authorize the Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations to examine, inquire into and make recommendations on ridesharing in British Columbia. As I noted late last week, the committee comprises MLAs from all three parties, will engage with expert witnesses, debate the issue and produce a report to be released by February 15, 2018.
For several weeks, the B.C. Greens have been working with the B.C. NDP to develop an approach that would allow important questions related to ride-hailing to be canvassed with stakeholders in British Columbia with the goal of introducing enabling legislation. The motion that was to be debated was shared with the BC Liberals last week and we were led to believe that they supported it. The BC NDP, BC Liberal and BC Green house leaders let each other know that there would only be four speakers (two Liberals, one Green and one NDP).
I rose first to speaker in favour of the motion (see video and text reproduced below). The next speaker was Mike de Jong, the official opposition house leader. Midway through his speech he blindsided everyone by introducing an amendment to the motion with no notice. The debate then moved to debating the amendment. Once more I stood to speak to the amendment (the text and video are reproduced below).
As you will see from the two speeches, I was initially thrilled that all parties had agreed to work collaboratively to advance ridehailing. I had not expected to be blindsided by the petty games played by the BC Liberals as I had assumed, after conversing with a number of BC Liberal MLAs, that they were eager to move the issue forward. In the second speech I point out how unfortunate it was the the BC Liberals took the approach that they did, especially in light of the fact that we sent a letter to the opposition house leader last week concerning our desire to collaborate with the BC liberals on improving legislation.
From what transpired today it is clear to me that for the BC Liberals, politics is nothing but a game. They have no intention of working collaboratively to advance good public policy as all they seem to be interested in is the quest for power. After their antics today, I was also left wondering if the MLAs in the BC Liberal caucus actually knew what they were voting on. I suspect that they were as surprised as the rest of the house was when they were instructed to vote against bringing ridehailing to British Columbia. Fortunately, the BC Liberal amendment failed and the motion to authorize the Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations to examine, inquire into and make recommendations on ridesharing in British Columbia passed.
Below I also reproduce the media release that we issued following the passing of the motion today.
A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to rise here and speak in favour of Motion 16 on the order paper today. I’m very, very happy to be standing here to this advancement. This is a momentous, to my knowledge, occasion. This is a first time that I recall that an issue raised in a private member’s bill has been brought forward to a committee, a select standing committee, in recent times here in the Legislature.
When I tabled my ride-share enabling bill for the first, second and third time, I said I was doing so to help move the discussion forward, and I’m very glad we have been able to do so in such a productive manner.
We in British Columbia want to view ourselves as innovators in the taxi sector, but you’ll never be viewed as an innovator if you’re not willing to embrace the innovation that is before us in that industry. At long last this issue will finally be addressed in a collaborative fashion by all three parties, and it’s been six years — six full years, pushing seven now — since ride-hailing companies first attempted to enter the B.C. market.
Despite all-party agreement that we need to bring this disruptive technology to British Columbia in a regulated fashion, we’ve yet to see any progress until now. Instead of my bill being called for second reading, ride-hailing will now go to an all-party committee, the Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations, made up of MLAs from all three parties.
For several weeks, the B.C. Greens have been working with the B.C. NDP to develop an approach that would allow important questions related to ride-hailing to be canvassed with stakeholders in British Columbia. The committee, comprising MLAs from all three parties, will engage with expert witnesses, debate issues related to the industry and, ultimately, produce a report to be released by February 15, 2018.
The committee framework is the opportunity for government representatives to talk to ride-hailing companies, consult with stakeholders about their concerns and analyze how this sector will impact the variety of communities across British Columbia.
Sometimes people think that ride hailing is only a metro issue. But let me tell you, when I’ve travelled British Columbia and I’ve talked to taxi drivers from north to south and east to west, I recognize that it’s a desire to come provincewide.
On the Select Standing Committee on Finance, we were in Cranbrook recently, as part of our travels. The taxi driver who picked me up there told us about ride-sharing in her area. She said she wants it to come there because it costs her a $100 a day to rent the cab from a licensee holder. On some days, she actually loses money, whereas if she were able to be her own boss, travel when peak demand is there and not travel when there’s not peak demand, it would allow her greater flexibility. She was all for it in the Kootenays.
As we move forward, we must recognize that we already have ride-hailing companies operating in this province, not only in Metro Vancouver but here in the capital regional district. They’re already here. They’re already operating — in Chinese language, mind you — but they are operating in an unregulated environment. And that poses a risk to public safety that this government has a responsibility to ensure is dealt with.
This isn’t about just major ride-sharing companies. We’ve all heard Uber. In fact, we all hear the discussion that it’s all about Uber. Uber is but one name that seems to be in the press a lot, but there are many others. We recently heard about the company Lyft moving to North America. But what’s more is that as I toured British Columbia speaking to tech leaders in all jurisdictions — from Kelowna to Kamloops, to Vancouver, to Victoria, to Prince George, to Fort Saint John — I recognize that there are also B.C.-based entrepreneurs, B.C.-based innovators, B.C.-based start-ups that are keen to move into this disruptive space too. But they can’t because they want to play by the rules, and the rules have not been set. So they can’t enter the market.
It’s our expectation that this report will be used alongside the work of Mr. Hara to inform all future legislation that the government brings forward to regulate both the taxi industry and the ride-sharing industry.
Now, I appreciate the government has taken steps towards bringing ride-hailing to British Columbia by hiring an expert to begin to look at modernizing our out-of-date regulations for the taxi industry. However, my colleagues and I were concerned when we saw that explicit reference to ride-hailing was missing from the terms of reference of that review.
We felt that this would be an opportunity to use our Legislature in a new way and promote a multipartisan, collaborative response to this issue for which there is pent-up demand like I’ve never seen before in British Columbia.
While this committee will be tasked, the Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations, with taking on the specific issue at present by ride-hailing services, I hope that what we are doing here today provides a blueprint in this province for how we might deal with future issues as well. The world is changing, and our economy is changing. We have the responsibility as legislators to ensure that we are not simply keeping pace with the change — or, in this case, struggling to even keep up with it, years behind — but that instead, we’re preparing for the challenges proactively and creating opportunities for this generation and next.
Let me tell you, here in B.C. while we still debate the introduction of ride-hailing and the introduction of transport network providers, other jurisdictions are already talking about driverless cars. They’re already talking about creating a regulatory environment that allows transportation without a driver. We are so far behind in British Columbia, yet we have so much opportunity to be leaders in this area, as well as others in the emerging economy.
For two years, my staff and I have been meeting with representatives from the taxi and ride-sharing industries to discuss the opportunities, the barriers and the challenges facing B.C.’s transportation systems. Let me say that while there are some licensed holders of taxis who are concerned that their investment may be affected, without doubt, the overwhelming number of taxi drivers and taxi companies that I’ve spoken to support the introduction of ride-hailing. They recognize that it has happened throughout North America, throughout the world, and their industry has not suffered.
We know that the introduction of ride-hailing targets a generation, the millennial generation, who otherwise would not be taking taxis. They’d be driving their cars or not going where they want to go. It’s the generation of people who, on evenings on Friday and Saturday nights, are stuck in downtown Vancouver trying to get home or sometimes taking that risk that perhaps they’ll drive home themselves because they can’t get access to a taxi, when they shouldn’t be in that car.
This is a safety issue for which a solution exists and for which a solution has existed for years. I’m delighted that we’ll start to explore this further in the Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations. Quite excited by the makeup of that committee too. It looks like it will be some…. I think I’m one of the older people on that committee. There’s a relatively young demographic represented on that committee — the member for Vancouver–West End, the member for North Vancouver–Lonsdale…. It looks like we’ll have a generational perspective as we move forward in the discussions on that committee.
Over time, it has become increasingly clear that B.C. has fallen behind when it comes to evolving with innovation, unlike almost every other major city in North America. Other jurisdictions have had ride-sharing services in their communities for nearly a decade, and we just now are getting to work on it. And as I have mentioned, others are already talking about it with autonomous vehicles.
There is many an anecdote of executives and tech innovators coming to Vancouver on a jet from the Silicon Valley and getting off that plane and saying, “I’m going to access the ride-hailing company here, because I have an account,” and not being able to and then wondering what’s going on in this jurisdiction that is trying bill itself as an innovator in the modern economy.
Some cities are getting driverless cars, as I said, before we can even allow ride-sharing apps to be operated here in British Columbia. It’s just remarkable. So let’s get on with this committee work. I’m excited to do so. We do a disservice to the people who elect us if we continue to pretend that the only things that are worth talking about are the divisions between us. On this issue, the B.C. Liberals campaigned to bring in ride-sharing enabling legislation by the end of this year — as did the NDP and as did the B.C. Greens, actually, for three years. We finally have all three parties’ agreement, so let’s get on and do this.
A willingness to debate and to ultimately provide a shared report that outlines the path forward is a good thing. I’m sure that every member of this House can agree that when making big changes, it’s essential that we bring the public along with us. We respond to public opinion, we listen to the public, and we move forward based on public opinion to bring in policy that actually reflects the concerns and values of the general public but also provides a safe, equitable work environment for those embracing the new technology.
Considering the level of politicization of this issue so far, and the significance of introducing this new technology to British Columbia, I sincerely hope that this multiparty committee will provide great value in assuring the public’s confidence. We’re en route to developing legislation that will enable the fair, safe and accessible introduction of ride-sharing in British Columbia so it can be passed as soon as possible.
It’s my goal that the work of this committee will help make this the last holiday season in British Columbia without ride-sharing services.
A. Weaver: I’d like to speak to this amendment, if you would bear with me just a couple of seconds. I’ve only seen it for the first time moments ago. I would start by saying we did send a letter to the member opposite, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, asking him for clarity and providing guidance on how we would hope that, in the spirit of cooperation, amendments would be brought forward and that they wouldn’t be tabled on the floor — if there was an idea to bring an amendment forward — without the opportunity for thoughtful reflection. Upon what was being brought forward in the amendment…. We don’t have that benefit right now because I literally have just been given it, and I’m literally struggling to find on the order papers the motion that we’re debating.
Here’s the motion here: “That the Committee be authorized to meet for up to 3 days to hear from expert witnesses.” So the concern here is to remove the words “3 days.” Now, I understand that the point here is that you don’t want to hamstring the committee. My worry about this — even though I do like the idea — is that we do have a parallel process with respect to the taxi industry. The purpose for having this particular review, this particular motion, this particular review of ride-hailing is that it was not included in the terms of reference of the review of the taxi industry.
I understand the importance of hearing from existing taxi licence holders as well. Clearly, they’re the ones who were most resistant to the introduction of the new technologies. The reason, of course, is that some of these have very, very substantive value.
I’ll tell a quick story here. As I was on C-FAX here in Victoria discussing ride-hailing, an owner of a taxi licence phoned in, and he told me that he’s very opposed to ride-hailing and he suggested I didn’t know what I was talking about. Then he went on to provide some information. He had acquired the taxi licence for $200. Well, as soon as one acquires a taxi licence for the tune of $200, you now are the owner.
We have a very odd system in British Columbia, whereby licence recipients own those licenses forever. A separate debate that we could have at some point is that I think it’s important that we move away from the owner having licences for life and recognize that the licences are the property of the Crown. They can be leased out instead of being offered forever, because the artificial value that’s created in the marketplace — for something that really shouldn’t be there — is done in the process.
So the $200 licence here in Victoria is now worth, I don’t know how many tens of thousands of dollars, because of the fact that these have a value. And you can buy and sell them. I get that the taxi licence holders are concerned — the taxi drivers less so; the licence holders are.
It’s important that we hear this perspective. The question I have is: to what extent that is this the appropriate avenue in which to actually have the taxi licence holders make their case when we know that the other parallel committee stage is exactly 100 percent dedicated to taxis? Ride-hailing companies are not able to participate in the engagement of that because it’s not included in the terms and references.
So I continue to struggle here. What I struggle most about is I like to reflect upon good ideas. The amount of time I’ve had to reflect upon this is literally seconds, and had the government opposite — members opposite — really wanted in good faith to get this forward, why didn’t they give it to us in advance? Why didn’t we see this last week? Why didn’t we see it yesterday? The opposition had the opportunity to do that. They had the opportunity to actually come and talk to us. It’s particularly in light of the fact that we sent the member for Abbotsford West a letter specifically requesting that he consider providing, if you want to actually get amendments forward, give us the information in advance so we can reflect upon it.
I struggle with this, because I don’t know what the unintended consequences — “for up to three days.” That was agreed upon. If we just remove it, how do we know now that this process is not self-limiting to go on forever? Let’s suppose suddenly every taxi licence holder decides that they want a right to come and speak before the committee. We could have thousands of speakers taking this process through to the eternity. That’s not the intent.
So again, I recognize and I support the idea that we don’t want to limit…. I hope I get a chance to hear some words from the member for West Vancouver–Sea to Sky who is on the committee with us because, again, I’m troubled with this, not because I don’t agree with the intent of providing flexibility to the committee and not because I don’t disagree that we want to ensure that we listen to everyone. But I’m not sure, again, let me see if I can go specifically to the wording.
I shouldn’t be doing this in the debate. In good faith, I shouldn’t be having to look at the same time as I’m speaking to this amendment trying to figure out and think whether I support it on the fly. Is that how we do legislation here in B.C.? Is this the way we really want to do legislation.
On the one hand, I’m holding the motion; on the other, I’m holding the amendment. I’m trying to figure out whether this is good or not. As I’m thinking this through, I’m filling the space with words because half my brain is trying to figure whether it’s a good idea and the other half is trying to fill this with words so you don’t call me on time.
This isn’t how we do policy in this province. The more I think about it, the more I’m thinking that the member opposite had a lot of time. He had the time to actually show this to us so we could have thought about it instead of on the floor. I can’t support this because of that, because I haven’t had the time to let my left brain catch up with my right brain as I’m trying to embed these two and think about the consequences with no advance notice.
BC Liberals vote against moving ride-hailing forward
For immediate release
November 28, 2017
VICTORIA, B.C. – The B.C. Liberal caucus today voted against moving ride-hailing forward in British Columbia. Last week, B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver announced that he had reached an agreement with the B.C. NDP to move the subject of ride-hailing, raised earlier in October in a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Weaver, to an all-party committee of the Legislature. The Committee is slated to deliver a report on ride-hailing to inform eventual legislation no later than February 15, 2018.
“I must admit I am disappointed that the BC Liberals have chosen to oppose moving ridesharing forward,” said Andrew Weaver. “Since electing a minority government British Columbians have been clear that they want their politicians to work together like grownups. This could have been an opportunity for all parties to stand together and show people we are capable of that.”
Last week, the B.C. Greens sent a letter to B.C. Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong requesting advance notice of amendments in order to consider the policy implications. However, the Liberals yet again introduced an amendment to the motion at the last minute. The amendment further came as a surprise as the B.C. Liberals had indicated in public statements that they were supportive of moving forward on this issue.
“If our goal is to craft good public policy Members of the legislature need to grow up and stop using amendments as tools for political gamesmanship. As legislators, we must consider, for example, whether amendments create redundancy and waste taxpayer money, as the one proposed by the Liberals today appears to. It is regrettable that the Liberals continue to refuse to engage on the issues in favour of treating this House like a game.”
The B.C. Liberal amendment would have amended the terms of reference for the committee to include taxi licensees. But a review of the taxi-licensing system is already underway by the government, making that prospective work by the committee ineffectual given it would be considering a licensing program that is slated for reform next year.
“While BC is just starting to debate ride hailing other jurisdictions have already turned to autonomous vehicles,” said Adam Olsen. “I know the B.C. Liberals have a leadership race underway, but we cannot keep putting political calculation ahead of moving forward on the issues that matter to the people that elected us.”
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
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