Stranded BC

The relationship between the BC NDP and the taxi industry of Vancouver

 Source: BC NDP, 2015

“I think that influence is changing because of the campaign finance reforms we have brought in. But in the current first-past-the-post system there are rewards for making decisions about jurisdictions. What we have seen here is a concerted effort to make sure the people of Surrey are OK” … “One of the issues that we continue to run up against is a very powerful, consolidated lobby,” Green Party MLA Adam Olsen said.

Olsen correctly diagnosed the hidden relation between the taxi industry of the Vancouver city and the ruling political party NDP. The structure of the mighty taxi lobby was never clear as Global News looked at the 2,081 taxi licences in Metro Vancouver. Those licences are controlled by 28 taxi companies, which are operated by a total of 106 directors. What is unclear is how many people actually own the taxi licences or have a stake in the taxi companies.

The Role of Moe Sihota

“Moe Sihota has been our friend for many years” said Carolyn Bauer, head of the taxi association in an interview with Voice online on 10th July 2018. The role of this former minister and former provincial head of BC NDP as a priest in the marriage of the Taxi industry and Kater has been revealed in several reports and documents. Sihota introduced the association to Surrey businessman Monty Sikka to develop Kater, with 20 per cent of the profits remaining with taxi firms.

Jas Johal, the Liberal MLA, in an interview with The Province (on 18th Feb,2019) told about his experience. He went to a meeting at Kater’s Surrey office where Sihota led him through a PowerPoint presentation on the company. “They were talking about keeping Uber and Lyft out,...... I’m shocked by that,” Johal said.

The Ministry and Monopoly of Taxi Industry in the disguise of Kater

As a result or consequence, it was found that Kater struck a deal last summer with the Vancouver Taxi Association, long a supporter of former Vancouver city councillor and now Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff Geoff Meggs, to secure 140 taxi licences for the tech company’s own fleet of vehicles.

A Nov. 16, 2018 letter from VTA spokesperson Carolyn Bauer said Bonny’s Taxi, Black Top Cabs, Burnaby Select Metrotown Taxi, MacLure’s Cabs, North Shore Taxi, Queen City Taxi, Richmond Cabs, Vancouver Taxi, Vancouver Taxi doing business as DBA Handicapped Cab and Yellow Cab had applied for licences which would be used by Kater.

Bauer said Kater would purchase 50 vehicles to be on the road by January 2019. Individual companies would insure vehicles. Regulation of drivers would be the same as taxi drivers, she said. The ministry did not address allegations of helping build a monopoly.

“This is a business-to-business arrangement between the Vancouver Taxi Association and Kater,” the ministry said in a statement to Glacier. “There is no agreement between Kater and the province, nor does the provincial government have any involvement in this service”. Here is a link of a confidential letter which clearly shows the relationship shared by Taxi association- Kater and the ministry.

Ravi Kahlon (NDP MLA)

It all looks like a big sham to keep Uber and Lyft out of B.C. to the great delight of the current taxi monopoly.

Now comes word that an NDP MLA on the legislature’s ride-hailing committee has a direct family link to the taxi business: His father owns a taxi licence!

Ravi Kahlon said that his dad, Navroop, has owned a taxi in Victoria for 28 years. The Liberals zeroed in on Kahlon, insisting he should step down from the committee, which is making recommendations on ride-hailing rules to the government.

“This is plain wrong,” said Jas Johal, who pointed out that the committee’s work could have a direct financial impact on Kahlon’s family. “This doesn’t pass the smell test. He should recuse himself.”

But Kahlon refused to step down, admitting he didn’t inform Transportation Minister Claire Trevena of his family connection to the taxi business.

“I don’t think I’m under any conflict of interest,” he said.

Class 4 licence and the Minister

The Minister turned down one major recommendation (among 11) of the Select Standing Committee on Transportation Network Services: Boundaries, Supply, Fares, and Driver’s Licences. She said “I will not move on Class 4 licence. I think people’s safety is paramount, and a Class 4 licence adds to that level of safety,” shortly after the report was released. The strict stand of the minister for Class 4 licence may be seen as an effort to minimize the number of drivers for Uber/Lyft and to protect the taxi industry for few years more.


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