VANCOUVER - The mayor of the Metro Vancouver city of Surrey has stood down in his fight against ride-hailing, saying it's "time to move on" after a judge ordered the city to stop ticketing Uber drivers.
Mayor Doug McCallum has resisted ride-hailing because he says the companies hold unfair advantages over the taxi industry, and the city began handing $500 tickets to Uber drivers shortly after the service started.
Surrey alleged drivers were operating without a business licence, but Uber filed for an injunction in court where it argued drivers held provincial permits and the city had not created a licensing regime.
British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Veronica Jackson ruled in favour of Uber on Friday.
"Surrey has been attempting to ride two horses at once. It has told Uber there is no business licence for which it can apply yet it has been ticketing Uber for not having a business licence," she said.
"This has been happening against the backdrop of Surrey's stated intention to 'not allow' or to preclude ride-sharing in Surrey, despite knowing it has no authority to prohibit it."
She also ordered the city to pay the company's court costs.
The ruling is the second in as many days to side with ride-hailing companies in B.C. On Thursday, Jackson denied the Vancouver Taxi Association's bid for an injunction to suspend Uber and Lyft's operations until a judicial review of their licences could be heard.
Jackson said Friday that Uber has received a provincial permit to operate throughout the Lower Mainland and, in the absence of a municipal business licensing regime, there is no bylaw that drivers in Surrey can be accused of violating.
She said Uber had proven it would suffer irreparable harm in the form of lost revenue if Surrey continued issuing tickets. She agreed with the company that some drivers would be too afraid of being fined to operate in the city.
At the same time, she dismissed the company's arguments that it would experience reputational harm and lose its competitive advantage of being the first ride-hailing operator in the city as merely "speculative."
McCallum has said many taxi drivers live in his city and the provincial rules on ride-hailing are unfair because of a lack of limits on fleet size and the large operating areas allowed.
Following the ruling, the mayor reiterated his support for an inter-municipal licence proposed by a coalition of Metro Vancouver mayors. The proposal included urging the provincial government to review taxi boundaries, fleet caps and insurance requirements.
"Time to move on," McCallum said in a statement. "We will work with TransLink on the Mayors' Council's motion on a regional business licence to ensure a level playing field between ride-hailing and taxis."
The city confirmed it will abide by the ruling and no further enforcement action will be taken against Uber or its drivers.
A spokesman for Uber said outside court that it was a "good day."
"We've seen positive movement from Surrey," said Michael van Hemmen, head of Western Canada operations.
"We're pleased to see that the mayor has signalled that the City of Surrey will be looking to participate with the inter-municipal business licence ... that should hopefully be in place later this spring."
He added that he hoped for a better relationship between Uber and Surrey, which is the second most-populous city in Metro Vancouver.
"It's going to be a very important part of our business. We're really looking forward to working with Mayor McCallum and all of Surrey council on a path forward for ride-sharing to be an important part of the transportation mix there."
Surrey Coun. Linda Annis, who has clashed with the mayor on ride-hailing, said the "nonsense has gone on long enough."
"It's time for common sense and time to put passengers first," she said in a statement. "I hope the mayor will start standing up for our 550,000 Surrey residents rather than a handful of taxi owners who've had a decades-long monopoly."