An election promise to bring ride-hailing to British Columbia by the end of the year has taken a detour as the NDP government says the safety of passengers and operators must come first.
Provincial Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said Tuesday the government is studying safety and regulatory issues and she can't say when services such as Uber and Lyft will come to the province.
She said the government isn't stalling.
"[The government is] doing what we said we were going to do in the [election] platform and when we took over as government. We're going to make sure passenger safety comes first," Ms. Trevena said.
The New Democrats and Liberals pledged to bring in ride-hailing services this year during last spring's election.
The NDP promised to "work with taxi drivers, taxi companies and ride-sharing companies to create a truly fair approach to ride sharing in B.C. that doesn't unfairly benefit – or punish – one group over the other."
But Ms. Trevena now wouldn't put a timeline on the promise.
"We want to make sure whatever we're doing, we're doing it safely, we're doing it judiciously," she said.
"We're talking about people's safety here."
Green Leader Andrew Weaver said the province can't wait much longer, which is why he will introduce, for a third time, a private member's bill to pave the way for ride-hailing.
He said the bill can spark debate this fall about the service, but neither the Liberals nor the NDP appear receptive.
Liberal jobs critic Jas Johal said the Opposition has not been talking with the Greens about ride-hailing and will have to examine the proposed bill more fully before offering any kind of support.
Ms. Trevena said the legislature is the proper venue to debate ride-hailing, but the timing may be off despite Mr. Weaver's efforts.
Mr. Weaver said taking the slow approach on ride sharing signals B.C. is not willing to explore new technologies.
"We will never be viewed as innovators if we are not willing to embrace innovation," he said.
Mr. Weaver said the NDP may fear a backlash from the taxi industry, but ride-hailing represents the future.
"What we need to do together is bring the legislation that enables change to occur in a manner that's fair," he said. "We don't need to wait years to do so."
B.C. Taxi Association president Mohan Kang said the minority NDP government has committed to consult on ride-hailing with stakeholders, including the taxi industry.
"It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the public-safety issue is addressed," he said. "The B.C. Taxi Association has said since Day 1, since 2012, we don't have any problem with technology networking companies coming to B.C., provided they come through the front door and meet the requirements of law."
The association represents about 140 taxi companies across the province.
Uber Canada spokeswoman Susie Heath said in a statement the company is monitoring ride-hailing developments in British Columbia.
"During the recent provincial election, all three parties, including the NDP, pledged to bring ride sharing to British Columbia by the end of 2017," she said. "We encourage all parties to follow through on their election commitments to work together and make ride sharing a reality in 2017."