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Uber is not welcome in Surrey

Can Surrey by-law officers issue fines to Uber drivers?

Uber and Lyft began operating in BC’s Lower Mainland and Whistler last month. The Passenger Transportation Board announced it approved the ride-hailing companies to operate. Despite the approval, Uber is not welcome in at least one city: Surrey.

While Uber is legally entitled to operate in the Lower Mainland following the Passenger Transportation Board’s approval, the city of Surrey is sending a clear message that it may not do so within its jurisdiction.

Surrey by-law enforcement of Uber

According to news reports, City of Surrey by-law enforcement officers are issuing fines of $500 or warnings to Uber drivers not to operate there. They apparently use the app to request rides from Surrey and when the drivers arrive, they are greeted by a by-law officer with a ticket in hand.

All of this begs the question: is Surrey allowed to do that given the Passenger Transportation Board’s approval across the Lower Mainland?

Legislative authority

The City of Surrey exists under the legislative authority of the BC government so, at first blush, the Province would hold the trump card. However, this issue is not so cut and dried as that. The Province enabled ride-hailing through changes to the Transportation Act. The Province handed licensing authority over to the local governments. Surrey is not issuing licences for Uber drivers so, in its view, they are not allowed to operate within the city.

The city wrote to Uber, demanding the company ceases operations there, however, the company say they “respectfully decline”.

So who is right here?

Taxi by-law

While there is no legislation in place the specifically prevents ride-hailing from operating in Surrey, the city’s by-law enforcement officers are using a taxi by-law to issue tickets and warnings to ride-hailing drivers. The by-law effectively means you cannot operate in the city without a licence since Surrey is not issuing licences, it would argue that any ride-hailing drivers operating in Surrey are doing so without a licence and, therefore, they are in contravention of the by-law.

As long as there is no regulatory scheme in place in Surrey to govern Uber, the city will still likely hand out these tickets. There is a possibility someone might sue the city to either allow Uber to operate there or compel it to create ride-hailing regulations.