June 2019

Regina latest Canadian city to join gleeful ridesharing bandwagon

by Mike Beggs

The Greater Toronto Area locked up, Uber’s spread out West continues.

Regina became the second Saskatchewan city to have the notorious ridesharing giant hit its streets, effective May 15, with Michael Fougere the latest Canadian mayor to welcome Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) to town.

At the Uber launch, he stated unequivocally, “After a long, long wait, I know that Council and all Regina residents are really, really pleased to have ridesharing here and to have Uber here.”

He told the Regina Leader Post this will give consumers more transportation choices, create jobs, and serve as another tool in the battle against impaired driving.

In February, Saskatoon became the first Saskatchewan municipality to have Uber open for business, despite opposition from traditional taxi operators who say the Silicon Valley app provider has wrought destruction on their industry wherever it goes, while adding to safety and congestion concerns.

Under the terms of the new Saskatchewan Vehicles-For-Hire Bylaw, Uber drivers require a Class 5 driver’s license, a Canadian driver’s license for two years, a clean criminal record, a copy of a vehicle inspection, and an Uber sticker displayed on their car.

Michael Van Hemmen, Uber spokesperson for Western Canada, said the company hopes to soon expand its service to other cities across Saskatchewan, citing more driver interest in Regina than Saskatoon, upon opening shop.

In August of 2017 – with a huge lobbying effort at work -- Uber made a formal request to politicians in Regina and Saskatoon to create “modern and province-wide regulations for ridesharing”, telling CBC, “riders and drivers across Saskatchewan stand to benefit from new transportation alternatives like Uber.”

In October of 2017, the previous Premier Brad Wall endorsed the idea of TNC options.

But, Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association spokesperson Shondra Boire urged the province to move slowly, citing the effects on other jurisdictions in the U.S., Canada, and London, “racing into a decision, and then finding out afterwards that they didn’t do all of the research.”

The group claims having no cap on the number of TNC’s is “ludicrous” and insists cameras must be mandated into all of these vehicles, as with cabs.

“They should start out with a level of TNC’s that is sustainable. If we need more, we’ll use data to provide an analysis,” Cab Association director Kelly Frie told the CBC in December.

When asked what impact TNC’s could have on the existing taxi industry, Saskatchewan Minister SGI Joe Hargrave responded that, “healthy competition is good.”

“There’s lots of room for the taxi industry. I think they will still be very active,” he told the Leader Post.

But, taxi industry members in Toronto, and other GTA cities would beg to differ -- with TNC’s granted open entry to their market and virtual self-regulation, in what amounts to a “Wild Wild West” environment.

“It isn’t fair competition. They can say what they want, but the thing is, Uber’s whole business model is designed to put taxis out of business. And once they do that, they will double and triple their fares,” alleges Mike Tranquada, president of Independent Toronto Taxi Inc.

“These politicians, devoid of ideas to create jobs, say, ‘Let the poor share their money with somebody else.’ Look at ridesharing, who are they taking money from? Cab drivers. You can’t go any lower than that.”

And in February, owner/operator Gerry Manley alleged that Saskatchewan’s political leaders are only the latest across Canada to recognize a cash cow – with TNC’s paying 30 cents per trip to each city they’re licensed in.

Mississauga owner Peter Pellier observes that, like it or not, Uber and Lyft have become the go-to VFH choice amongst Millenials, whom he says have all but stricken the term “taxi” from their vernacular.

He alleges that when unlicensed Uber cars first arrived on the streets, authorities the world over “sort of sat back, arms folded, and watched it unfold”, as Uber grew into a $70-billion corporation – albeit with a raft of problems to address.

“Now, they’re here to stay, unless they self-implode,” he laments.

Regina residents and politicians who claim their city was behind the times without ridesharing might do well to read recent headlines from around the world.

CNN recently reported on an accused Somali war criminal who drove for Uber and Lyft and who has been ordered to pay $500,000 in a torture case. Meanwhile, the U.S. News wrote of a, “Pennsylvania State University Professor Working As Uber Driver Charged With Kidnapping” in two separate cases.

CNN previously reported that, utilizing a third party to do their criminal background checks, Lyft and Uber have approved of thousands of drivers with criminal records.


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