News / Winnipeg

New bill makes City of Winnipeg responsible for taxi industry, Uber

The Local Vehicle for Hire Act, which dissolves the Manitoba Taxicab Board, will come into effect Feb. 28, 2018 or sooner if the city's ready.

The province announced big changes to the regulation of the cab industry on Monday

RYAN REMIORZ / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The province announced big changes to the regulation of the cab industry on Monday

The City of Winnipeg has less than a year to prepare for regulating the local cab industry and wrestle with the question of clearing the road for Uber.

On Monday, Indigenous and Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke tabled Bill 30, the Local Vehicle for Hire Act.

The new legislation dissolves the Manitoba Taxicab Board and transfers the responsibility of regulating the industry from the provincial to the municipal level. 

It also opens the doors for transportation network companies, such as Uber or Lyft, to enter the city by giving municipalities the power to enact relevant bylaws. 

“Right now the City of Winnipeg is the only one that’s under provincial legislation, all the other municipalities look after their own regulation of taxicabs,” explained board chairman Randy Williams, who supports the province's move.

“This just levels the playing field for all municipalities.”

The new legislation will take effect Feb. 28, 2018 or sooner if the city is ready, the province says.

Coun. Ross Eadie, who resigned from the taxicab board over concerns about the board's attitude towards Uber, says the city lacks the financial resources or expertise to take on regulation of the cab industry.

According to a provincial website, the board is responsible for a range of duties, from issuing business and taxi licences and dealing with complaints against drivers to controlling the fare structure and having regular hearings.

“The Manitoba government has just dumped on the city and I’m sure there will be more April 11 [provincial budget day],” Eadie said Monday. 

Mayor Brian Bowman was of a different opinion. 

He said the legislation presents an opportunity for the city to be innovative.

"I think there's going to be a lot of work required by a lot of people to understand the path forward, but I do think it's an opportunity for us to move things forward for the benefit of customers," he told reporters. 

Bowman said the new legislation caught city officials by surprise, but media reports indicate Clarke says she called Bowman Monday morning.

During his recent state of the city address, Bowman voiced support for bringing Uber to the city.

But on Monday, he wouldn't comment on any details of the new bill, such the potential costs it carries for the city or the one-year deadline, saying only further dialogue with the province is needed first.

Transferring the cab industry to the city's jurisdiction and allowing Uber into the local market were two of 40 recommendations made in an external review of the industry, ordered by the former NDP government.

"We look forward to bringing Uber to the province soon so that Manitobans can benefit from another safe, reliable way to get around their communities and flexible income earning opportunity,” a spokesperson for Uber Canada wrote in a previous statement to Metro.

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