Mayor Doug McCallum

Surrey: The mayor of Metro Vancouver’s second-most populous city says ride-hailing is operating illegally in his municipality and drivers who are caught will be fined.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum told a news conference Monday that ride-hailing companies require a municipal business licence and his city has not created a licensing regime.

The city earlier warned Uber to stop operations although the company said it had all the necessary provincial licences.

McCallum says 18 warnings were issued to drivers over the weekend but the grace period is over and any violators will be ticketed and face a fine of $500.

Uber says the mayor is threatening fines that have no legal basis, noting the province has been very clear that cities don’t have the power to block ride-hailing companies from operating.

The company adds the Uber app will continue to be available in its service area in Surrey and it will be preparing legal action to defend the right to access the app.

The Transportation Ministry confirms that municipalities can set requirements for business licences, but can’t stop their operations outright.

“The absence of a bylaw or business licence in specific municipalities related to ride-hailing is not grounds for refusal of the service,” the ministry said in a statement.

Despite his pledge to fine drivers, McCallum said he supports ride-hailing, but it has to be on a level playing field with the taxi industry.

He argued ride-hailing companies have an unfair advantage over taxis because of differences like lower fees and required driving experience.

“In Surrey, a large number of our residents work in the taxi industry and their paycheques go directly to support their families,” McCallum said.

Uber said according to provincial law, ride-hailing is not a taxi service.

It said it supports a regional business licence being developed by Metro Vancouver mayors and is committed to working with municipalities to find interim solutions in the meantime.

The Canadian Press