By: Luke Jones, Published on August 21, 2017 02:03 PM, Last Update on August 21, 2017 11:04 AM
Uber is calling on officials and politicians in Saskatoon and Regine to press the Saskatchewan provincial government to change regulations that would allow ridesharing companies to enter the market.
Regina city councillors and mayor Michael Fougere confirmed they had received the request last week. US-based ridesharing giant Uber later also officially confirmed the request.
"We have reached out to the Regina and Saskatoon city Councils to ask their support for the creation of modern and province-wide regulations for ridesharing," a spokesperson for Uber wrote in a recent email to CBC News.
"Riders and drivers across Saskatchewan stand to benefit from new transportation alternatives like Uber."
It is a change of tactic for the company, which has typically entered the market against the wishes of authorities. It seems Uber is now willing to call on its potential to improve local economies to push municipalities towards lobbying on its behalf.
Fougere says he is open to starting a Saskatchewan-wide conversation about ridesharing companies like Uber entering the market. He adds he has already held these discussions with the company and Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) in the past.
"Competition makes for excellent service and maybe coming in here would be a good way to provide better service to people," said Fougere.
"It's very early on in the discussion and I haven't heard from the taxi industry about this at all yet."
Saskatchewan operates a public insurance model. Auto insurance has often been a stumbling block for Uber and new government regulations have needed to be created in other provinces to accommodate the company. Later, private insurance companies have needed to develop products to cover Uber drivers.
In Saskatchewan, progress could arguably be smoother as the government and auto insurance are in sync. Uber admits that SGI will need to take a unique approach to developing a ridesharing solution.
"Given that the province is responsible for insurance, license plates, and driver's licensing it makes sense for the provincial government to be the one to regulate and establish the driver safety standards," the company says.
"Only the provincial government can ensure that appropriate safety standards are established across the entire province."
A spokesperson from the province has yet to respond to CBC News's request for comment.
Tyler McMurchy, a spokesperson for SGI says insurance is not a problem, provided Uber is willing to comply with existing rules and act like a taxi service:
"Insurance is not the roadblock," said McMurchy.
"SGI is waiting to see what approach Saskatchewan municipalities want to take with respect to Uber, and they haven't advised us about what, if any, changes they would like to see to provincial regulations around transporting passengers for hire," it reads.