view entire issue | view Hansard type of business | new search


Ontario Hansard - 29-October2015

OPPORTUNITY IN THE SHARING ECONOMY ACT, 2015 / LOI DE 2015 SUR LES POSSIBILITÉS OFFERTES PAR L’ÉCONOMIE DE PARTAGE

Mr. Hudak moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 131, An Act to enact two new Acts and to amend other Acts to regulate transportation network vehicles, to provide freedom for individual residential property owners to share their property for consideration with others and to deal with the expenses of public sector employees and contractors in that connection / Projet de loi 131, Loi visant à édicter deux nouvelles lois et à modifier d’autres lois pour réglementer les véhicules de réseau numérique de transport, pour donner aux particuliers propriétaires de biens résidentiels la liberté de partager leur bien avec d’autres moyennant contrepartie et pour traiter des dépenses des employés et entrepreneurs du secteur public en lien avec ces questions.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Mr. Tim Hudak: I’ll call it the Opportunity in the Sharing Economy Act, because the other title is a bit more than a mouthful.

Speaker, there are two commodities in life that we don’t have nearly enough of: time and money. Through the use of modern consumer technology—the simple push on the pad on your smart phone—you could have a bit more of both. It also makes life a lot more convenient. I certainly see that in our own family, and I know that my colleague from Kitchener–Conestoga sees it with his three little ones. We certainly do with Miller and Maitland as well. We’d love to have a little bit of both of those commodities: time and a bit more money. Let me tell you why that is relevant to my bill on the sharing economy.

Right now across Ontario, so many people are struggling just to make ends meet. The Bank of Montreal’s recent Rainy Day Survey, as they called it, looked at the status of not just Ontarians but Canadians. It found that more than half of Canadians do not even have $10,000 in savings that they could access as a rainy day fund. Say, sadly due to weather, your roof caves in, or you have a major accident, more than half would be hard pressed to find the money to address that. In fact, a quarter of Canadians are living from paycheque to paycheque with no money whatsoever being put away for savings.

We have larger debates in this assembly about the level of taxation. We have larger debates about how we can spur the economy and create jobs in general. Here’s something we can do right away, and that is to empower people to earn a little bit more money from assets they already own—in my bill, their home, their car and their parking space.

So the Opportunity in the Sharing Economy Act has, really, four major parts that I’ll address in the time I have, and then look forward to comments from my colleagues in all three parties about this exciting new opportunity for Ontarians, and a chance for us to lead when it comes to embracing new consumer technologies to create new jobs in our province.

Right off the top, I want to say one particular thanks, and that is to Michael Wood. Michael Wood works for all of us as a drafter—I think he’s actually employed in the Attorney General’s office. My colleagues have probably had Michael helping write their own private members’ bills. He did an outstanding job. This bill is 42 pages long. It is relatively complex for what we often consider, and I want to send a debt of gratitude to Michael for his extraordinary work in the ambition of the bill and making it a reality by going through a series of different laws. He showed incredible patience, had very good judgment and gave me some helpful advice.

1440

We heard from a lot of stakeholders as well, from mayors, from industry leaders, whether the Ubers, the Airbnbs or the Rovers, to the hotel industry, to the taxi industry. I spoke with mayors and civil servants from all the major cities in the province where Uber is currently present. They said, “You know what? These technology improvements are upon us, and consumers are reacting.” Unfortunately, government is not reacting. We’re having a debate, almost a guerrilla warfare, on a municipality-by-municipality-by-municipality basis. I’ll explain why that’s harmful to the bigger picture and why we need to take action.

I think it’s time that we had this conversation. It’s time that we had the debate. It’s time that we actually took action to empower people to make more money from things that they own, to free up consumers to improve their quality of life by having more time and more money on their hands through these innovative technologies, and to send a signal that Ontario is open for business, entrepreneurship and innovation.

I want to, as well, in the introductory part of my comments commend the member from Kitchener–Conestoga, Michael Harris. He was a trailblazer on this. He brought forward the first motion on transportation network companies back in May 2015. Good for him; he got the ball rolling. I’ll continue pushing it up that hill.

Part one: If government wants to encourage an activity, there should probably be a customer. We’ve got all kinds of labs and incubators. I’ve certainly visited the DMZ at Ryerson—a great one; Communitech in Kitchener-Waterloo; and the MaRS Innovation centre. One thing they’ve found in other places that worked, and worked well, in New York City and London, is to make sure that there is a customer at the end of the line. You can get all the mentors in the world you want—it’s the customer that’s actually going to get you focused on selling your product and improving its quality.

There are calls across the broader public service for equivalency; basically, that there should be no bias towards the built economy and against the new sharing economy. The sharing economy, by the way, is also called collaborative consumption, peer-to-peer, the chance to lend or borrow or purchase from peers goods or services. The biggest ones we hear about: Uber and Airbnb. I talk about Rover a lot here in Toronto. TaskRabbit—there are literally hundreds of them; thousands of them.

What I do in the bill is I say that across government, you need to treat the two equivalently. A taxicab receipt for expenses, if you’re allowed that, would be treated the same way as an Uber receipt. A receipt at an Airbnb or a HomeAway or a VRBO location would be treated the same way as a hotel; that a parking receipt at a Green P be the same as Rover, for example. I think government can send an important signal that they’re open to the sharing economy, that they support the initiative and they support innovation by declaring that equivalency across the board.

The other part of that, by the way, is a five-year sunset review. I think, particularly when you’re talking about technology, it’s important to have a sunset review. That’s part one.

Part two, ride sharing: Certainly, we’ve seen a lot of debate in our major cities in the province, and I hope that it comes to Niagara because I think it would be helpful to my riding and the constituents that I represent in neighbouring areas, and that’s the issue around Uber versus the existing taxi companies. What I usually hear from people is that they actually like the service. They like the convenience. It’s more affordable. I also hear people say, “You’ve got to level the playing field. There should be some sort of consumer protection or public safety rules around it.”

As I said: My team, we did our homework. We looked at the best jurisdictions around the world, including those here in Ontario, and came up with a plan. I won’t list them all; they’re all in the bill. But here’s the quid pro quo: You license a transportation network company and allow it to exist. They give people a chance to earn a bit more income. The average Uber driver in Ontario, by the way: about $3,000 a year in income. One gentleman I had the other day: He was driving Uber, I think it was, about four to six hours a week to help pay for tuition for his son. He’s an electrician, and his son is becoming an electrical engineer. It’s not cheap. He’s proud of his son, so he works on Uber on the side to help pay for that tuition and see his own son’s success. I want to see more of that. I want to empower that.

What’s the quid pro quo? In return, the transportation network company would have to guarantee that there is insurance. That’s where the Ontario government comes in. We run the regulatory system, through FSCO, for insurance. There has got to be insurance: for the driver, for the passenger, for the vehicle. In the bill, we would set the level. In return for a transportation network licence, the drivers would have to have clean driving records: no more than three moving violations in the last three years—three strikes and you’re out—a zero tolerance policy for the use of drugs or alcohol when you’re behind the wheel, and criminal background checks. There would also be consumer protection mechanisms, like making sure you know what the ride is going to cost before you get in, how they calculate the fare, a chance to review the driver and—guess what?—those drivers review you, too. They told me I’m a 4.9, so I’ve got to continue behaving myself. That’s part two.

Part three: home sharing. Look, I’m like a lot of families across the province. I have two little girls; one is a little bit past the infant stage. When you go on vacation, on a trip, Speaker, you have two choices. You can rent out two hotels rooms, one for the parents and one for the kids—that’s pretty expensive—or you can rent out one single hotel room and pack them all in and everybody is miserable and nobody gets any sleep. You’ve been there, Speaker.

So what have we done on the last couple of trips? We actually went through HomeAway and we rented a cottage. You had a kitchen, you had a living room and you had separate rooms. There wasn’t some big government check mark that said, “You can go here.” We relied on the advice of those who had been there before, people like us: what did they say about the place, pictures. We interacted with the owner. We’ve done this seven years in a row with great success. So why not empower more of this right here in Ontario? Do you know what? Ontario, the city of Toronto, Niagara—enormous potential—Parry Sound–Muskoka, I think, for sure, too; they’re beautiful places to visit. Why not allow people to share part of their home? If they’re away, they could have people stay at their house for compensation. If you’ve got an extra room in your place, a place above the garage, why not?

In Chicago, where this is done, the average income for a family has been about $8,500. That’s all right. I would compare ourselves in Toronto to Chicago a lot. In fact, Toronto now has about 7,000 listings alone. Canadians are adopting this technology quickly. It’s a chance for a lot of people to make a few extra dollars and then show off their neighbourhoods. In Austin, Texas, they have found that yes, although hotel revenue did decline a little bit, particularly at the lower end of the market, it also brought new tourists to Austin, Texas, those who might not have gone because they couldn’t afford it, or a new bunch of tourists—a lot of millennials. Although slightly older, I’m a pre-millennial. They would get to stay in neighbourhoods where there aren’t hotels and they have found that awfully attractive.

So why not? Let’s get going and empower Ontarians to make a little bit more money through services like Airbnb. It also gives you more choice as a consumer. So let’s get going.

Part number four: parking sharing. Here is where it all wraps together. Right here in Toronto, in the province of Ontario, there’s a new app called Rover. Rover will basically connect you with somebody who wants to rent out their parking spot. It may not be as much use in Beamsville or Smithville, but in Toronto and Ottawa, and maybe in downtown Kitchener, it could be of great use. Say you have a place at Yonge and Eglinton and you’ve got a driveway or a lot that you own behind it. You could actually rent out that spot by the hour, by the day, a little extra income coming in for that rainy day fund. It also helps to relieve congestion. One study recently said that up to 30% of traffic downtown can be people roving around looking for a parking spot. So let’s allow that to happen, too. It’s a great benefit on the public policy side, addressing some environmental issues through empowering this type of technology and setting rules around it.

Here’s what I worry about: If we continue to throw up barriers, if we continue to say to new ideas, “You’ve got to fight every municipality across the province one at a time,” if we want to close our doors, put our heads in the sand, think in the past—whatever analogy you want to mash together—the signal it’s going to send is that Ontario is not open for business. If we want that next Uber or Airbnb to be an export industry from the province of Ontario, we need to open our doors. We need to say that this is a good thing for people, it’s a good thing for technology and it’s a good thing for jobs.

I want to see Rover expand here in Ontario, create jobs and export their product. I don’t want to see them pack up in frustration and head down to San Francisco, California, where the other two are from.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate.

Mr. Taras Natyshak: It’s a pleasure to rise, of course, always, and I want to commend the member for addressing a really interesting topic, one that we know is evolving each and every day, given the technology that is upon us. More and more people are making these new considerations and new choices within our economy to take a different approach to what traditional methodologies would be. We’re seeing it evolving in every facet, whether it’s the grocery store and the way that we access food or our transportation system. Life, by and large, is getting more convenient due to the emerging technology. We can only expect that it’s going to get better. We hope that it will.

1450

Certainly, government has a role to play to ensure that those technologies are promoted and supported and advanced when they do provide a benefit to consumers. It is, however, also our responsibility to ensure that these technologies are regulated and that they offer the set protections on behalf of consumers. It is our ultimate job here to ensure public protection, even in such a subject as parking. It may seem innocuous at first blush, but there are questions that arise within a parking spot. What types of vehicles will be parking there? Are the vehicles containing hazardous materials? I know that there are lots of regulations that are imposed on businesses in terms of parking their own vehicles in their own private parking spots. Let’s ensure that we’re providing our due diligence, but let’s also realize that the times they are a-changing. We certainly have to move along with technology and support those advancements.

We do indeed promote R&D and IT in this province to an extent in which we should and hope to be leaders. There are certainly some shining examples out of Kitchener-Waterloo, where we are the world leaders in information technology and the sharing economy.

Speaker, our leader, Andrea Horwath, had the opportunity to speak in Niagara just yesterday at the economic summit about the sharing economy. What she emphasized, and what we do as a party is emphasize that the sharing economy also has to be a fair economy. We can share, but let’s ensure that it is fair.

There are many in the industries that are outlined in this bill who have provided good-quality services throughout the years. They have subscribed to the rules and complied with the rules and regulations. I speak specifically around the taxicab industry. These are folks who work hard for their money. They put in tremendous hours. They ensure the safety and the welfare of riders. They comply with the regulations; they make sure that their vehicles are compliant as well, and we ask them to do that. It is quite a regulatory burden, and one that I think many taxicab drivers would like to see a little bit of a reduction on. Nevertheless, they comply. They understand that their ultimate role is to get the person from point A to point B in a safe and effective manner.

The prominence of Uber opens up a whole new world of transportation and that modality. In full disclosure, I’ve never used Uber. I know what it is; I understand the technology, but I’ve never used it. I’ve never used Airbnb. At some point, I’ll have to check out first-hand what these services are. So it’s difficult for me to relay a personal experience, but I do know what they are. I see Uber, of course, as a matter of convenience and something that can run parallel to a traditional system, but I see it as a virtual hitchhiking type of system at this moment, where you used to stand along the road and stick your thumb up and hope that someone was kind enough to pick you up and bring you close to where your destination was. You also hoped that their vehicle was in good working order. You hoped that they weren’t under the influence. You hoped that they had insurance. You hoped that they weren’t going to veer off the road and take you somewhere you didn’t want to go and harm you. These are things that we all took into consideration when we stuck our thumb up, and I certainly did that as an adolescent.

We have to ensure that these types of new technologies are regulated. There’s a lot of foresight that’s put into it. I think that we also have to do our due diligence in consulting with the various jurisdictions that will be affected by them, mainly municipalities. My colleague referenced that Uber exists in certain municipalities. In fact, Uber exists everywhere now. If you have a smart phone, Uber exists. It can’t be said that it only exists in large urban settings. It can exist in a town like Belle River, where I come from. If you have a cellphone and a car, Uber is there now. That dialogue with that municipality has to happen. This is a new consideration. I hope our municipal leaders are taking a look at it. I know that they would like to have a seat at the table when legislation is brought up that affects them. This piece of legislation specifically excludes them from talking about Uber, or bringing in municipal regulations around Uber. That’s a massive, glaring omission to the bill.

Speaker, there’s another thing that I think everyone in general should be concerned about and it is the fact that in our economy and through matters of commerce, we do business transactions and there are also levies attached to those transactions which we call, in this House, taxes. Taxes, in these specific sharing economy sectors—

Interjection.


Mr. Taras Natyshak: Okay, one more minute—traditional providers like hotels and taxis collect HST, and right now these are not; these are excluded. We have to ensure that those businesses that are operating are also contributing to the roads that they will be driving on.

That’s my final point. I’m proud to share my time with my colleague from Parkdale–High Park, and I appreciate your time, Speaker.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: It’s always a pleasure to rise on behalf of the citizens in Cambridge to offer good debate. I wanted to thank the member for Niagara West–Glanbrook for introducing this private member’s bill and having more conversation amongst all three parties about this subject.

My interest in the sharing economy is due in part because I live in Waterloo region. I’m sure my colleague across the way would agree that Waterloo region is renowned now as the tech hub in Canada. We have seen many innovative companies. We’ve seen just an absolute explosion in the IT sector and a number of different new emerging companies that are coming out of Waterloo region. It’s an important conversation that needs to happen across the province when it comes to this emerging sector.

The purchasing of goods and services between consumers is nothing new. When you think back to 100, 150 years ago, many new employees moving to a new city went to boarding houses and rented a room in a home where all of the space wasn’t being used, for instance. The sharing of underused assets or personal time on a rental basis is another part of it. Much like the member across the way, I have also taken part in home-sharing vacation properties. My husband was on a conference in Europe and we did actually rent an apartment so we could come and go from there, because we were there for some amount of time. It was certainly something that I have gone ahead and used myself.

In another instance, in terms of parking, when we visited my husband’s niece in London, England, she was talking then about people who didn’t own cars but had parking spots on their property in London, and they were renting out those parking spots—for a huge amount of money, I might add. So this is nothing new.

We also know with any opportunities there are certainly new challenges as well, Mr. Speaker. I know that our government recognizes this and also the significant opportunities in the sharing economy that need to be explored. It’s something that we first addressed in the 2015 budget. I must say I’m proud of the work that our government has been doing on this issue, so it’s timely that we’re now at a point where we can talk about it in the House.

If this bill moves forward to committee, there will be an opportunity to further consider the questions that are raised because of this emerging technology. We know that this bill would have a significant impact on a variety of sectors, and it’s important that we work with all of our partners in order to get this right. When it comes to the sharing economy, we need to take a balanced approach. It’s important that we drive innovation, but at the same time protect both the safety and the choice of Ontario’s consumers. Consumers are at the heart of the emerging sharing economy, and our focus remains on consumer safety, consumer protection and consumer choice in the marketplace. In particular, Speaker, the sharing economy raises some questions that our government really needs to answer for those who may be precariously employed, or for those more vulnerable communities.

We know that the right regulatory and tax environment can help innovation thrive. It’s important to recognize that aspects of the regulatory and taxation environment may need to adapt to new and previously unconsidered business models. That innovation drives competition in the marketplace, and competition ultimately benefits consumers. Our government understands this and remains committed to protecting both the safety and choice of Ontario’s consumers in a rapidly changing marketplace.

1500

You know, Speaker, just before I came here I’d gone to the round table that the Ministry of Transportation is putting on this afternoon regarding autonomous vehicles—self-driving vehicles. That’s another example, not of the sharing economy, but of emerging technologies that are changing the way we do business in Ontario.

There needs to be a fair balance between existing business and new operators. Indeed, we need to ensure that issues around consumer protection, insurance, taxation and the impact on the labour market are addressed. These are all subjects that I think bear a lot more discussion, not only here in the House, but at the committee level. I would like to see this bill move forward to committee so that we can start discussing some of these issues.

I know that our government is actively working with industry stakeholders in determining the right regulatory and tax environment so that we, as I said before, can help innovation thrive and maintain a level playing field for businesses while balancing that with protecting the public interest.

We also understand that as part of a growing shift to a sharing economy, new technologies are disrupting existing business models. Therein lies the reason why we need to have a much larger discussion across government of how these new technologies and these new business models are going to affect what we currently have in Ontario. New, software-driven applications often involve thousands of individual operators, and those operators are often in the field fairly quickly. That’s why we need to address this.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I really do support seeing this bill move forward into committee. I think that these kinds of conversations and the work that we’re doing in government about the sharing economy can help vibrant, emerging sectors to thrive. We’ll be committed to continuing to work with firms and industries to help them comply with existing obligations and to consult on an ongoing basis to make sure those obligations reflect a changing economy. Again, I myself would like to see this move forward to committee and be further discussed.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Monte McNaughton: I’m very pleased to be speaking today to this thoughtful and comprehensive legislation put forward by my friend and colleague from Niagara West–Glanbrook. In fact, it’s so comprehensive, as we heard moments ago, that it’s 42 pages long. It’s very well researched, thoughtful and necessary, and I commend my colleague for bringing this forward.

The Opportunity in the Sharing Economy Act provides an excellent legal framework that protects consumers while supporting innovations that save people time and money, as well as giving others the opportunity to supplement their income.

As I said, this is much-needed legislation here in the province of Ontario, Mr. Speaker. Our laws clearly have not kept pace with technology. Unfortunately, we only get a short allotment of time to discuss this very comprehensive bill. I’m sure there are a lot of well-formed opinions in this House on the sharing economy, and it’s a discussion that has been a long time coming. Hopefully we can get this bill to committee so the discussion can continue there. It’s great to hear government members speaking in favour of getting this bill to committee as well.

People in this province, Mr. Speaker, are using and offering these services. They deserve clarity on where the government actually stands. Many companies find themselves competing with these new technologies, and they deserve to have the rules of engagement clearly defined. The ambiguity of the current situation is detrimental to everyone involved. This act is about facilitating the innovation and progress for a modern economy that this province desperately needs.

We need to convey to the world that Ontario is a place to turn ideas into useful new products, services and ways of doing things. The Internet has made it cheaper and easier than ever to aggregate supply and demand, and we should be capitalizing on this instead of fighting the inevitable changes we’re seeing in the marketplace.

I would also like to point out that most of the discussion of ride-sharing and home-sharing services revolves around cities and how these services operate in an urban context, but they have the potential to fulfill a real need in rural Ontario. Outside of large cities, taxis and hotels are not always easy to find and there is very little competition. The sharing economy business model could sustain the feast-or-famine demand that occurs in towns that experience large influxes of people during a particular season, or perhaps only a few days a year during fairs, tournaments and festivals.

Government cannot continue to stand in the way of progress or defer to a patchwork system of regulation by municipalities that creates challenges for everyone—innovators, consumers and our legal system—participating in the sharing economy. This government has to help Ontario families improve their financial situation. Personally, I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit that underpins the sharing economy, and I believe that we should be empowering people to seize these new and exciting opportunities.

Consumer demand for sharing-economy services is undeniable. The convenience, affordability and choice they offer have made many of these services extremely popular, even in the face of legal ambiguities. Turning a blind eye and not bringing in legislation is negligent. We need the protections this act entails as much as we need the progress it allows.

I think the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook has done an excellent job on this bill in including measures that ensure the safety and quality of service without creating a lot of red tape that overburdens companies or service providers. Embracing the progress these new technologies bring will benefit Ontario. Innovation drives economic growth. If we stifle innovation, we stifle our economic activity, the creation of wealth and growth of jobs. The economy of this province needs to recover from the loss of manufacturing, the decimation of our auto sector, the high price of electricity and other taxes.

Ontario is struggling, and we need to change how we do things here in the province of Ontario. I’d like to see the government take action, support my colleague’s bill today and embrace the sharing economy and opportunities for people who want to earn a little extra income in the province of Ontario.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I’m very proud of my colleague from Niagara West–Glanbrook. He has worked hard to bring forward this thoughtful and comprehensive legislation. I hope that everyone in this House will support it so we can get it to committee. Let’s send a signal to the world that we stand on the side of innovation, competition and a modern economy.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: It’s always a privilege to rise in this House and represent the folks in my riding and in Ontario generally.

Uber has been a real source of contention at Toronto city council and, really, when I speak, I’m going to be borrowing largely from a wonderful city councillor, ward 14 representative Gord Perks, in a column that he wrote for the Globe and Mail.

Suffice to say that yes, absolutely, the sharing economy is with us. But simply because a sharing economy moves along doesn’t mean that we have to embrace everything that it stands for. Absolutely, Uber, Airbnb and all the sharing economy needs regulation; there’s no question about it.

But let’s, for a minute, just talk about who we’re talking about when we talk about Uber. There are other app-based companies that also work in various jurisdictions that don’t have the record Uber has. What is Uber’s record? Uber refused, in 2014, to even pay the $300 required fee, and routinely ignores regulations that Toronto city council puts before it.

It has been sued. A San Francisco family is suing Uber after a driver struck and killed their child. Uber says that it is not its problem; the driver wasn’t on the clock. Yet, in Toronto, licensed drivers carry commercial insurance so they’re covered when they’re cruising.

Driver screening: It’s claimed that the San Francisco driver had prior convictions. Toronto screens criminal and driving records before issuing a taxi licence. Uber doesn’t do that.

Also, it uses surge pricing. For example, at 3 o’clock in the morning on a winter day when the weather is awful, our licensed taxi drivers know that the price stays the same. Uber’s does not. Uber charges what the market will bear. That sometimes means leaving a 16-year-old young woman standing on corner.

1510

Customer safety: Because Toronto grants, and can revoke, licences, we can keep bad drivers off the streets. By using unlicensed drivers, Uber takes that public power away.

Denial of service: We have instances where Uber drivers have denied service to people and have also exhibited some problems. You know what? This is about protecting Uber drivers, because the real issue here is about precarious employment.

The member from Niagara West–Glanbrook talked about an individual who made an extra $3,000 a year. How many hours did he work for that $3,000? How do we regulate that? Is he taking $2 an hour driving for Uber? How do we know? Is Uber paying taxes? How do we know? How do we regulate, and how do we actually enforce those regulations?

Not only that, there are privacy concerns. Taxicab drivers have your credit card, your phone number; they know where you live and where you travel. US Senator Al Franken recently wrote Uber asking about their privacy safeguards. Uber hasn’t yet replied. You’re giving this information to people, and you don’t know who they are.

There have been all sorts of documented problems with Uber. CNN reported that Uber affiliates have placed thousands of fake orders with a rival taxi company. Far from improving competition, this tactic aims to break competitors and regulators alike.

Again, let’s look at who we’re dealing with. This is a $17-billion multinational company. There should be some controls over how it operates in our jurisdictions—there’s no question about that—and there should be labour controls on how it operates in our jurisdictions as well. I wanted to point those things out.

Three very quick things: Auto insurance—absolutely, it’s critical to have it. We don’t have it now for either homes or drivers, where the sharing economy is concerned.

Two, there is no mechanism in place for taxation and the collection of taxes. When you have one regulated industry up against another unregulated industry, you don’t have that control.

Three, a critical one—we already have the city of Toronto weighing in on this; they should have been consulted—municipalities need their say. We can’t impose regulations and stipulations on our municipalities unilaterally without having them at the table. That is absolutely critical, and that, again, is where I differ with the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook.

We have an issue here. We have to deal with it. We have to deal with it in a transparent way, in a consultative way and in a way that protects both those who are employed by the industry—the taxi industry, the ride-sharing industry and the home and hotel industry—and we have to do it with our partners.

I don’t have a lot of time. Just a few words: Again, no doubt we’re on the tipping point of a brand new technology. It doesn’t mean we have to abrogate our responsibility to look after those who are affected by it.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Hon. Glen R. Murray: I want to start by commending the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook for raising a very substantive and important issue. I think it speaks to his thoughtfulness as a member in this House. It is these kinds of things—you’ve heard me say many times that I always like to get House duty. I think I’d scream and cry and have a tantrum if someone tried to take Thursday afternoon away from me, because I find that this is the time when we actually get to be members of Parliament, and I’ve always said that I think the things we debate are very deserving of our constituents.

I actually find this an issue with huge opportunity and huge challenges and concerns, and I dare say that I am not alone in that. It has certainly been an issue for the government. For those of you who love to read budgets, page 103 of our budget, Supporting the Sharing Economy, goes on to talk about—I won’t read it all. It goes on to talk, very similarly to this bill, about the huge emerging challenge and opportunity for people to make money and improve quality of life, and also the challenges associated with it.

Then, on page 112 of our budget, we talk about reviewing labour laws to enhance security and competitiveness, some of the issues that the member from Parkdale–High Park raised—that was very much in here.

Then we talked about, “Dramatic technological change has become common in the workplace, affecting many routine-based jobs”—shifting to service sectors and an increase in non-standard employment and Internet-based and related employment, which this very much is. Our labour laws right now don’t really address income security for precarious people. I talked earlier today about the labour movement and how important that is. It’s very hard, in some of these cases, to ensure benefits and security.

I will support this because I think it needs to go to committee. To actually support this legislation, I would hope that the committee would take time to fully debate it because I think there is a great deal more complexity here, and it needs a really thorough hearing.

I want to recommend a couple of documents. One that argues very favourably for the sharing economy is the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s piece called Harnessing the Power of the Sharing Economy. It’s a very, very thoughtful piece that they’ve done. It looks at risks. It looks at assessments. I’m sure the member is familiar with it. I think it’s something that all of us should read.

I would also recommend to folks an article in Fortune magazine. It’s not exactly the Walrus or Mother Jones, but Fortune magazine spends a lot of time looking at the experience of Uber in the Netherlands and the tax-avoidance schemes that have gone on. For every $20 they get from the average drive in that country—for larger drives, they transfer it to a company called BV in Bermuda and then a company called CV, which has no employees. On every single $20 that they make in revenue, which is a typical fee, they pay less than one cent in taxes. No other corporate company has that kind of challenge.

I have not used Uber. I live in a community with Beck and other folks. The three largest companies in Ontario spent $2.5 million in Toronto on HST alone. These are hard-working families, often first-generation, often highly educated and skilled and underemployed, and in somewhat precarious employment who, quite frankly—I had a private member’s bill. I didn’t get a chance to do it. It was on the taxi industry and how taxi drivers are treated. I think they work very hard for very little remuneration and are charged all kinds of things. I talked to those taxi drivers a lot about what this means to them, and I’ve heard a variety of opinions. Some of them are very upset. I’m not prepared to support a bill that doesn’t actually look also at the conditions of people, broadly, in the transportation sector. I’ve had others say that they’re very happy with Uber, even though they’re driving for Beck. I asked them why, and they say it’s because they think it’s usury fees they’re charged and licence fees—and the little bit of money they make—and the huge rental fees have actually dropped. One driver said he makes $300 or $400 more a week because the competition from Uber has forced his employer, the owner of the licence, to actually reduce it. I’ve had others tell me the opposite story. I’ve even been in a cab where the driver was actually double-timing, doing Uber calls as well as traditional dispatch calls.

So I learned one thing about this: There is no easy narrative here, and there’s a lot at stake.

I come from a couple of generations of working-class Canadians. My grandmother was a char and cleaned. I have huge respect for people who do service work.

So while I think there are opportunities for many here for greater income and security, there are huge risks. As our budget said, we’re trying to balance those things. On page 103, we make the case for advancing technology. On page 113, there’s a cautionary tale that the government also has to bring forward labour legislation to do that. I think we need both. This is one piece. I will support it, but we need the second piece as well.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Michael Harris: Thank you for the opportunity today to speak to this forward-thinking bill that my colleague from Niagara West–Glanbrook has introduced to address a series of societal and economic benefits resulting from a province-wide approach to the sharing economy.

While the member’s proposal covers a wide range of opportunities related to the sharing economy, I would like to provide some thoughts specifically relating to the ride-sharing aspect of the bill.

I’m a frequent Uber customer. I’ve had numerous opportunities and experiences to realize the long list of benefits that have accompanied the consumer-driven ride-sharing approach to getting around the city of Toronto and, recently, in the region of Waterloo, in my constituency. Whether it’s e-hailing my ride on my BlackBerry, tracking it on the Uber map, rating my driver or electronic payments, it’s easy to see how consumer demand for more efficient, affordable, reliable and enjoyable means of travel has led to the emergence of ride-sharing as a viable and oft-times preferable option.

1520

More than that, the whole range of Uber-related options that have accompanied the ride-sharing experience only further highlights the limitless opportunities represented by the sharing economy.

Have you had a chance to order an Uber lunch to your door, or order an Uber puppy to share some time with? Why, just yesterday, Uber customers were given the opportunity to “Clear your calendars—the kittens are coming.” Customers were given the option to open their app between 11 and 3 today—I think we may have a few minutes left, Speaker, in fact; not quite—request the “kittens” option, and for 30 bucks, you’ll get to enjoy 15 minutes of kitten playtime. In turn, Uber would help support Annex Cat Rescue, Just Paws Cat Rescue and the Etobicoke Humane Society—all for a great cause. Now that’s innovation meeting consumer demand, Speaker. That’s why apps like Uber have become so popular here in Ontario cities, across Canada and in fact across the world.

More to my colleague’s overall point, it’s why similar concepts like home and parking-spot sharing have taken hold in many jurisdictions. Consumers demand efficiencies, affordability, reliability and new, innovative options, and they are finding them in this new sharing economy frontier.

It’s also why I feel we must listen to the member’s call that recognizes the fact that as technology and new economies evolve, our legislation must also evolve with them. Bottom line, government regulations and laws should reflect what’s on the market, not stifle innovative business. Further, the call for a province-wide approach would help put a stop to the piecemeal, patchwork jurisdictional regulatory schemes that have seemed to leave everyone spinning their wheels while consumer demand is simply being ignored.

Much as I attempted to engage government in the provincial ride-sharing conversation with a motion earlier, I am encouraged to see this approach to the sharing economy continue to gain ground through the legislation we are considering here today.

I commend my colleague for the work he has done to address the concerns of those leery of the change that the sharing economy represents. Specifically, today’s bill calls for ride-sharing regulations that would require drivers to have a clean driving record, proper insurance and no criminal record whatsoever.

Further, the bill allows for both municipal and provincial licensing of a transportation network company, setting minimum standards around drivers, vehicles, consumer protection and safety. Drivers, of course, would be required to meet minimum standards, including proper licensing and proof of registration. It calls for a zero-tolerance policy for drugs or alcohol, and would allow municipalities stronger enforcement tools, including the use of demerit points for those with multiple offences, such as bandit cabs.

At the same time, the member has gone a step further, including an accessible vehicle fund that encourages more fully accessible vehicles to be on the road—again, forward-thinking concepts to meet the demand of consumers, demand that has truly driven the rise of the sharing economy in the first place.

Speaker, we’ve gotten a glimpse of the future, and it’s a future that includes the sharing economy. Jurisdictions across the world need to be, and are, getting on board, or become at risk of being left behind.

With regard to ride sharing specifically, to date, close to half of the US states have passed legislation to govern ride-sharing. Here in Ontario, ride-sharing has been debated in almost all of our major cities, but we have yet to have that fulsome conversation at the provincial level here at Queen’s Park—that is, until today.

I want to be clear in my call to support today’s bill underlining government support for innovation, competition and consumer choice to ensure both public safety and better service for consumers in the province of Ontario.

Not only does this meet the emerging and evolving demands of consumers, a province-wide approach to the sharing economy gives people the opportunity to put more money in their wallets by better utilizing assets they own, like their vehicle, their home or their parking location.

The people of Ontario should have the right to earn revenue from assets they own, and it’s the role of government to eliminate the red tape to make that possible.

Speaker, on the front page of the Premier’s website, she states that she will continue to fight for every person across this province to make sure they have access to the opportunity they so richly deserve. I submit that ride-sharing is an obvious opportunity for people in this province, and I hope the Premier and her caucus colleagues will be true to her word and allow the access to those opportunities that, again, as the Premier puts it, they so richly deserve. It’s time for us to get on board or risk getting left behind. By passing this bill at Queen’s Park, Ontario will be the first province in our country to regulate ride-sharing, and I look forward to that opportunity.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

I now return to the member for Niagara West–Glanbrook: two minutes to respond.


Mr. Tim Hudak: I’m pleased to wrap up. I appreciate the comments.

Look, this is the first legislation of its kind in Canada. I’m proud of that. We did our homework, as it is said, including sending draft bills to the cities. I know that one of my colleagues said we didn’t consult. In fact, we consulted broadly. But the first time out it’s not going to be perfect, and as I am certainly reminded by my wife, Debbie, and my daughters Miller and Maitland from time to time, Speaker, perfection is far from my current grasp. So let’s get it to committee. I’m glad to hear input as to whether we got it right.

I appreciate the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change’s comment. He’s right: There are opportunities; there are concerns. So let’s get to addressing them, because the technology is upon us and being taken up by so many consumers on a daily basis—there are a million Uber rides a month happening in the province of Ontario today.

The minister may well know too, because he follows these issues, that in Boston, they found a regulation similar to my process for Uber. In return, the city had access to data on traffic patterns that then helped them to adjust public transit and reduce emissions from automobiles to improve the environment as a result. So there are some compelling public policy benefits from this as well.

We also consulted with a number of industry associations, and many have come forward to endorse the bill. I appreciate the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s comments. It says, “By acknowledging the importance of an effective regulatory environment, government can better ensure the protection of consumers while allowing a vibrant and emerging sector to thrive.” The Ontario Home Builders’ Association particularly likes the home-sharing aspect. As I mentioned, in the States, over $8,000 a year—that’s a big mortgage payment. They appreciate the opportunity for “homeowners to leverage their properties for additional income” to pay down that mortgage and support housing affordability and greater choice.

The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario similarly has given an endorsement letter talking about the importance of an effective regulatory environment: “Government can ... ensure the protection of consumers while allowing” the sector to emerge. And the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association—the auto dealers across the province—wrote a very thoughtful letter that talked about the importance of helping people afford a new automobile or upgrade one they own.

I thank members for their support and look forward to the vote.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): We’ll take the vote on this item at the end of private members’ public business.
top | new search