Council passes another hurdle in bringing services like Uber to Halifax

Halifax Regional Council has given staff the green light to create the regulations that will allow ride-booking companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate within the municipality.

But at Tuesday’s meeting, councillors tabled a number of amendments to the motion that directed staff to prepare the bylaw amendments.

Coun. Sam Austin wants the municipality to be able to see a company’s list of drivers and have a veto over their licence, similar to what’s done in Toronto. He thinks having some oversight will improve public safety.

“I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and say we weren’t asleep at the switch, that we did everything we could to make sure an assault didn’t happen,” said Austin.

Municipal staff had recommended a flat licensing fee of $25,000 a year for all ride-booking companies.

But Coun. Waye Mason thought that would deter smaller startup companies from getting into the market. His proposal of a tiered fee structure of between $2,000 and $25,000 — based on the number of vehicles in the company’s fleet — was approved.

Drivers would require Class 4 licence

In a close vote — 9 to 8 — council decided not to ask the province to allow ride-booking drivers to operate with a regular Class 5 license.

Drivers would be required to have a Class 4 licence, which means extra driving tests, an eye exam and a medical check up.

Coun. Steve Streatch said that just made sense

“Anyone driving a truck delivering bread and butter and groceries has to have one,” said Streatch. “So if they’re transporting members of the public, then I believe this is something that should be included.”

But Coun. Matt Whitman said he felt the requirement would prevent ride-booking companies from setting up in Halifax.

“Uber and Lyft have been crystal clear: they will not be coming here if we require a Class 4 licence,” he said.

Other councillors pointed out that a Class 4 licence is a requirement in Alberta and British Columbia, where ride-booking companies are already operating.

It could be a few months before the bylaw amendments are ready to come to regional council for final approval.

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