Cabbies taken for a ride

The taxi industry in the Okanagan feels it has been lied to and let down by the provincial government.

Officials with the Okanagan Taxi Association held a news conference Tuesday afternoon in response to Monday's announcement by the Passenger Transportation Board establishing rules around ride-hailing in the province.

"It seems like there were some promises that were made that were unfulfilled," said Kelowna Cabs media relations official Roy Paulson.

"It goes without saying the government has really let us down by not creating the level playing field they basically promised they would," added Checkmate Cabs president Ted Wiltshire.

"The TNS (transportation network service) is the winner today, and I'm afraid taxi companies are at a loss. We're not going to stop or quit to protect our livelihood and maintain a living wage. We are going to dig our heels in and fight back. We have to."

At issue are boundaries and individual licences.

Cab companies are restricted by boundaries denoting where they can and can't pick up fares, and by the number of vehicles they can operate.

The PTB announcement would allow ride-hailing companies such as Uber or Lyft to run a limitless number of cars and operate in a larger area. The Fraser Valley, Metro Vancouver and Squamish-Whistler would be considered a single boundary zone.

However, no boundary determination was made for the Okanagan.

Wiltshire says the advantage has swung to the ride-hailing companies, which he says will be able to seemingly go wherever they want.

"The level playing field is not so level," he said.

And, while the cab companies did get what they wanted in requiring drivers to have a Class 4 licence, Paulson is concerned they may eventually lose that battle, too.

"We are thinking if (municipalities) keep pushing, they might just open the door for them to not have their Class 4, which means you could have a novice driver, 16 years old, who maybe doesn't have as many hours behind the wheel."

Both say the bottom line is they are concerned for their employees; nearly 500 between the two companies.

"There are people fearing for their jobs, their livelihood. There are some people that this is all they've ever done is drive cab," said Wiltshire.

"There are people putting their kids through school, they have mortgages. What are they going to do?" added Paulson.

It's a nervous time, said Wiltshire. "We'll just take it as it comes and hope for the best."

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