Several provincial actions and lawsuits have put Uber firmly in the spotlight of late, but while the screw is being turned on the drive-sharing company it looks as though it is here to stay. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a report on Tuesday that said services like Uber and Airbnb are likely to grow and regulatory bodies need to use “innovative thinking” to solve issues with insurance and tax.
The business lobby group is pushing authorities in Canada’s most populated province to continue seeking regulations for Uber, while also urging the federal government to prepare a better economy with driver-sharing companies in mind.
While there has been and indeed still is plenty of negativity surrounding Uber, the Chamber of Commerce says that there is an economic opportunity for Ontario to take advantage of. CEO Alan O’Dette says the province could be among the first regions worldwide to embrace the economic advantages of ride-sharing companies.
"Jurisdictions that are building adaptable regulator and tax frameworks are more likely to produce new technologies that will drive economic growth," he said.
Uber has come under fire in Canada and is seen as a controversial service. The City of Toronto sought legislation to shut down the company entirely, while bylaw challenges are currently being worked on in Waterloo, Vancouver, and Edmonton. Uber has refused to detail its insurance policies in full and lawsuits have been started by disgruntled drivers who have been caught out by the patchy terms of Uber’s service agreement.
Despite this, sharing a vehicle is growing across the nation and especially in Ontario’s highly populated cities where Uber offers an easier way of commuting for many. A lot of the issues with Uber come from the inability to regulate the service so far. There are a lot of grey areas regarding driver taxes, their roles as taxi drivers, and just how Uber insurance works for personal or commercial coverage.
"While those gaps exist, while those loopholes exist, there are risks for all users of the sharing economy, both users and contractors of the sharing economy," said Karl Baldauf, vice-president of policy and government relations for the chamber of commerce.
However, with the Chamber of Commerce saying Uber is here to stay, the next course of action for Ontario will be to regulate the service and then to take advantage of the increased economy. The money is certainly ready, driver sharing was a $15 billion worldwide industry in 2014, but the regulations are harder to figure out. The Chamber of Commerce has detailed the following recommended actions:
- Establish a task force with representatives from government and industry to analyze the impact and challenges of the sharing economy.
- Reform regulations to be more flexible and keep only provisions that are necessary and relevant today.
- Engage the insurance industry to create products that cover any gaps in coverage for autos or homes.
- Consider the sharing economy in its review of workplace legislation, currently underway.
- Engage with the Canada Revenue Agency to educate Uber drivers and others earning income from the sharing economy on how to report it.