Saskatchewan is one step closer to seeing ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft, operate in the province.
On the last day of the legislative session, the Saskatchewan Party government announced the approval of regulations to go along with the ride-sharing legislation first introduced in November 2017.
Saskatchewan Government Insurance developed the provincial framework of safety regulations, following consultations with the taxi industry, police agencies and ride-sharing companies.
Drivers offering ride-sharing services will be required to pass annual criminal record checks and have their vehicles inspected every year.
Ride-sharing, taxi or limo drivers will have the option of holding either a commercial Class 1-4 licence or a regular Class 5 licence.
Ride-share drivers who hold only a Class 5 licence must maintain a safe driving record and must have less than 12 demerit points under the insurer’s Driver Improvement Program in the last two years and no impaired driving-related suspensions in the last 10 years.
Ride-sharing companies will have to hold a minimum of $1 million liability coverage for all affiliated drivers and vehicles.
“I think that people will be able to feel very safe, very confident with the restrictions that we’re putting on, and with the restrictions that the city will put on,” Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave told reporters on Thursday.
The regulations will take effect on Dec. 14. After that, it will be up to cities and towns to pass their own bylaws surrounding the new industry.
“We expect (municipalities) to have their council meetings within the next week and to approve their set of regulations,” Hargrave added
Moving forward, municipalities are responsible for setting standards for the vehicles being used in ride-sharing, along with setting the fees, rates or fares. It’ll also be issuing the licences and deciding how licences are allocated, and who can drive a rideshare vehicle.
The legislation has been applauded by impaired driving advocates, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, because it provides another way to get a safe ride home.
“We want to see more options on the road. It’s not about ride-sharing or cabs or public transportation — it’s about having a variety of options for people, especially in peak times,” said MADD Canada Regional Manager Michelle Okere, adding the group has seen up to a five per cent decrease in jurisdictions where ride-sharing services operate.
Hargrave echoed those hopes, saying ride-sharing should provide more alternatives for getting around the province and planning sober rides home when people may be impaired.
Saskatoon, Regina city councils prepare for ride-sharing
Saskatoon’s city council has already outlined what they want to see in a temporary bylaw governing ride-sharing.
The rules wouldn’t limit the number of ride-sharing drivers in the city, would allow peak time surge pricing and wouldn’t require drivers to have in-car cameras or individual business licences.
However, ride shares wouldn’t be able to be hailed on the street a way a taxi can be.
The draft bylaw could be passed at city council’s Dec. 17 meeting, allowing ride-sharing companies to operate immediately, if they can acquire the necessary documents to certify drivers.
Meanwhile, ridesharing is a little ways off for people in Regina.
The city says it wanted to see the province’s regulations first, before writing its own.
“Things like background checks and the level of license you’ve got to have — is it five or one or whatever it might be — inspections for vehicles are important as well; those have been answered,” explained Mayor Michael Fougere. “We will now bring those forward in a report early in the new year.”
The report will come to council and the bylaw will come after that.
The city hasn’t been sitting idle in the meantime; Fougere noted they’ve been doing consultations — including with the taxi industry.
“They’re very concerned about their long-term viability and they want a level playing field,” he said. “I think we, as a council, and me, as the mayor, want to make sure it’s a level playing field — and to the extent we do, then both industries will thrive.”
— With files from Jessie Anton, Lisa Schick and Chris Vandenbreekel