It’s less than two weeks until BC’s provincial election and the province’s NDP under the helm of John Horgan currently leading the way in the polls, having opened up a ten-point spread over the BC Liberals. But BC residents are finding more than just their local politicians out on the campaign trail, as ride-sharing service Uber is doing its own stumping ahead of the May 9 election.
So far without a foothold in BC, Uber launched a petition in March aimed at bringing attention to the company’s desire to set up shop in the province. The petition is said to have garnered over 100,000 signatures to date.
“We are calling on all electoral candidates in British Columbia to commit to bringing forward workable regulations that embrace ride-sharing in 2017,” the petition says. “The consultations have occurred, and now is the time for action.”
Now, the company has put out a tally of electoral candidates across the province whom Uber claims have stated their support for BC regulations allowing ride-sharing services. Uber says so far, all Liberal and Green Party candidates have confirmed their support as well as the majority of NDP candidates and all three party leaders. The David Suzuki Foundation, the BC Chamber of Commerce and Translink CEO Kevin Desmond are also said to be on board.
Offering itself as a social, health and safety benefit, the company says, “Ride-sharing reduces impaired driving, complements public transit, and provides flexible earning opportunities to driver-partners.”
The largest jurisdiction in North America still holding out against ride-sharing services, BC announced last month that it would bring in new rules by December of this year to allow companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in the province. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone said, “British Columbians have made it very clear that there is a demand for services that ride-hailing companies provide.”
The BC government plans on supporting the taxi industry, too, however, by introducing new measures such as creating an Uber-like app for taxis, new crash-prevention software for BC cabs and giving taxis exclusive rights to be hired by phone, at a taxi stand or hailed from the curb.
Uber has made attempts in the past to influence Canadian elections. In 2015, it circulated a petition in Toronto before a city council vote on ride-sharing, collecting 25,000 signatures. The council vote ended up 32-12 in favour of allowing Uber in the city.
Along with opposition from the taxi industry in BC, the City of Vancouver has in the past come out against ride-sharing services. Last fall, Vancouver City Council voted to extend its moratorium on new taxi licences for another year and held fast on keeping Uber cars off its streets.
Last year, Uber aired radio ads and issued a letter-writing campaign in BC, arguing that residents are suffering from long wait times for taxis.
“British Columbians have made clear their overwhelming support for ushering in the benefits of the sharing economy. Almost 70 per cent support the immediate introduction of ride-sharing,” said Uber Canada general manager Ian Black in a letter to Premier Christy Clark. “It is time for the province to embrace the mantra as the party of yes when it comes to ride-sharing.”