New legislation paves road for rideshare service

Joe Hargrave speaks to supporters during the 2016 election campaign. Herald file photo.

The provincial government has moved one step closer to allowing ridesharing services like Uber in Saskatchewan after introducing new legislation on Thursday.

Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave, the Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Service, formally brought forward the Vehicles for Hire Act, which sets out a framework for how these services can operate.

According to the legislation, and rideshare service providers must file written evidence of a minimum $1 million motor vehicle liability insurance policy, and insure every vehicle providing service. The legislation also makes criminal record checks mandatory, and modernizes a prescribed driver’s licence class to include ridesharing service providers.

Although the legislation focuses on bringing a new service to the province, Hargrave instead touted its role in reducing impaired driving rates.

“What we’re looking at with ridesharing is another tool in the toolbox to battle impaired driving, and the more opportunity there is to make that right decision, not to drive after they’ve been drinking, that’s what they’ve been looking for,” he said.

Hargrave added that the provincial government has already met with cities to discuss changes brought about by allowing Uber and other services into the province. In August, the organization made a formal request to the provincial government to allow ap-based ridesharing services to hit the streets.

The Vehicles for Hire acts will give cities like Prince Albert leeway to govern all other aspects of the service as used in their communities.

“It will take the municipalities a little bit of time to get all their things right in order and companies to make that application to them,” Hargrave said. “But, if they know it’s all going to be there, even if it’s not this (year), even if it’s not until first thing in the spring, then at least they’ll know and they can get all their applications and everything ready to go ahead of time.”

The province looked to different areas to help craft the act, particularly with the $1 million motor vehicle liability insurance policy. Hargrave said other jurisdictions have gone with the $1 million figure, so the Saskatchewan government decided to follow suit.

Drivers can have a far smaller liability on a regular licence, but Hargrave said that wasn’t adequate.

“That’s just not enough if you’re hauling other people,” he said. “You have to have that good liability insurance.”

Uber already operates ridesharing services in 16 Canadian cities, only four of which are in Western Canada.

California based Lyft also entered the rideshare market in November, when they established their first international office in Toronto. According to the Globe and Mail, the organization expects to begin offering rides sometime in December.