Halifax regional council has approved new rules that will allow transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate in the municipality.
Drivers will have to get criminal background checks every year, along with the child abuse registry and a vulnerable persons check.
Coun. Tony Mancini voted in favour of the motion.
“The downtown business associations want it,” he said during council Tuesday. “The Halifax partnership, the chamber [of commerce], the restaurant association, Discover Halifax, the thousands of students who go to our universities and colleges, our business community want this model.”
Thirteen councillors voted in favour of the new rules, while four — Steve Adams, Shawn Cleary, Lindell Smith and Richard Zurawski — voted against it.
Operators like Uber and Lyft will be subject to an annual licensing fee.
The price depends on how many vehicles a company has in service. It ranges as low as $2,000 for up to 10 vehicles and as high as $25,000 for more than 100 vehicles.
Cleary said he voted against the motion because a “per-trip fee” was not included in the new rules. A per-trip fee would allow the municipality to charge the transportation network companies a fee to operate.
“Unfortunately, without the per-trip fee, we’re not actually building a sustainable transportation solution for Halifax,” he said, adding that he would support it if the fee were added in the future.
The municipality needs approval from the province to implement that fee, as it would require changes to the Motor Vehicle Act. This change was requested by Mayor Mike Savage in February, but it hasn’t happened.
The proposal outlined that there is a risk associated with not being able to charge a per-trip fee because the cost of administering the program is unknown and the proposed annual licence fee may not offset the costs.
It did say that staff is continuing to work with the province to encourage amending the Motor Vehicle Act.
In an email, an Uber spokesperson said the rule change was a “positive step forward,” but that “regulatory change is required at the provincial level as well.”
“We look forward to [Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines] sharing details and timelines for the reforms required to make ridesharing a reality,” the email said.
In 2019, it was revealed that Halifax Regional Municipality staff had been quietly meeting with representatives of Uber to discuss what regulations could be put in place to let ride-hailing services operate in Halifax.
A spokesperson with Lyft said the company is not planning to expand its locations at this time, but “we are in conversations with regulators across the country and appreciate the opportunity to work with all levels of government in Halifax and Nova Scotia.”