Another shot across the bow: Expert says law is behind Uber in its fight against Surrey mayor - CityNews Vancouver - Canada News Media
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Another shot across the bow: Expert says law is behind Uber in its fight against Surrey mayor – CityNews Vancouver



SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Does the City of Surrey have a leg to stand on in trying to stop ride-hailing from operating there? The short answer, according to an academic, is no.

Over the weekend, some drivers approached the media, saying they had been baited through their ride-sharing app and handed warning tickets after being met by bylaw officers.

Zac Spicer, the Director of Research at the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, said Uber has the law on its side.

“Municipal action or inaction cannot frustrate provincial legislation,” he explained. “So, unfortunately for the mayor, this is happening.”

On Tuesday, Uber said it was proceeding with legal action against the city, filing an injunction application to stop it from “issuing illegal tickets,” but that didn’t appear to phase Mayor Doug McCallum.

McCallum, who has been vocal about his opposition to ride-hailing, even warned ride-hailing drivers that if they were caught picking people up in Surrey, they could face fines of up to $500.

Regardless, Spicer doesn’t think this will make it very far in court.

“The precedent here is pretty clear — if there’s provincial legislation in place, municipal action can’t frustrate it,” he said. “I would imagine a judge would strike this quite quickly. This could also be a bit more of posturing on the mayor’s part, perhaps, probably knowing that it’s not going to go too far in court.”

There is currently no particular business licence that would cover ride-hailing in Surrey. Spicer said if Uber was granted one at the provincial level, it wouldn’t matter if Surrey had its own, anyway.

“I think it’s a pretty clear cut case from the point of view of the legal system,” he explained. “I understand the frustration — if you are a mayor and you have fought this for several years, and that you feel you are protecting workers or a certain sector of your local economy. But this is really a fight to take up with the province at this point in time, if they choose to do so.”

The head of Uber’s Western Canada division has said Surrey’s actions are ultimately hurting its residents, and that ticketing drivers “who want to earn money and support their families,” was unfair.

“It is also unfair to those who need a safe, affordable and reliable ride,” Michael van Hemmen said.

Uber is expected to speak to the media at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

-With files from Tarnjit Parmar and Martin MacMahon

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CN Rail Q4 earnings drop following week-long strike, weaker freight demand –



MONTREAL – Canadian National Railway Co. saw its profits plunge last quarter with a week-long strike and thinner freight demand denting revenues, though CEO JJ Ruest expressed cautious optimism about the second half of 2020.

“The trade environment, when you look at how negative it was last year and how things seem to be at least turning, in the quarters to come we will start to see some of the positives of that. I know at the same time nothing is guaranteed,” he said Tuesday during a conference call with analysts.

The pending ratification of the new North American free trade pact “can only be positive – it’s not going to be a huge positive, but rather than going backwards we’re going to be moving forwards,” Ruest added.

The country’s largest railway says net income dropped 24 per cent to $873 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with $1.14 billion in the same period in 2018.

“We continued to witness weaker volumes driven by softness in the general economy and were also impacted by the conductors’ strike in the quarter,” chief financial officer Ghislain Houle said on a conference call with analysts Tuesday.

The eight-day strike by 3,200 conductors and yard workers last November – the longest rail strike since 2012 – brought the railway to a near halt, stopping shipments, triggering layoffs and disrupting industries across the country.

Keith Reardon, who oversees the company’s consumer product supply chain, said the work stoppage “impacted our domestic business for close to a month.”

With the exception of container shipping, the company suffered lower revenues across the board. Its two biggest bulk products took a significant hit, as revenue from petroleum and chemicals dropped seven per cent and grain and fertilizers fell six per cent.

The wind-down of the GM car plant in Oshawa, Ont., did little to bolster volume in the automotive category, where revenue fell eight per cent.

Revenue from containers, which accounts for more than a quarter of all freight income, rose by four per cent, however.

“Efficiency measures all worsened, which we attribute largely to the strike,” said analyst Jim Corridore of CFRA Research in a note.

Ruest said CN will scale down its capital program, but still aims to invest $3 billion in capital expenditures this year versus a total of $7.4 billion over the past two years.

“We need to grow the pie. Just exchanging pieces of pie – that’s not a long-term solution,” he said, citing a “turbulent economic environment.”

“We’ll have to do quite a bit of self-help,” he said on the conference call.

Fourth-quarter revenue fell six per cent to $3.58 billion versus $3.81 billion the year before, CN said.

On an adjusted basis, diluted earnings decreased to $1.25 per share, 16 per cent lower than $1.49 per share 12 months prior.

The result notched above analyst expectations of $1.20 per share – which came following a revised forecast from CN in December – according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Full-year revenues rose four per cent to $14.92 billion and profits dipped three per cent to $4.22 billion.

The board of directors approved a seven per cent increase in the 2020 dividend on the Montreal-based company’s common shares.

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In ride-hailing dispute with the province, Doug McCallum can win even if he loses –



People hoping for a quick dispute in Surrey’s ride-hailing standoff may be waiting much longer than it takes to hail a cab from YVR.

“The province’s role is really to establish the framework for ride-hailing and make sure that it gets up and running,” said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, when asked if the government would take immediate steps to stop Surrey from issuing $500 fines to Uber drivers, as Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has threatened.

“We’re aware that Surrey is denying issuing business licenses to try to block ride-hailing. We hope that they can sort out their business licenses with the others in the region.”

In other words, the province is content — at least in the short-term — to see how potential legal battles, and talks between municipalities to create a regional business licence, go. 

The group overseeing those negotiations is the TransLink Mayors’ Council. While they’re meeting on Thursday, any proposed bylaw isn’t expected until late February or March, and there’s no guarantee Surrey will even participate in the process. 

And while the stalemate continues, and Uber turns to the courts, the opposition party wants the government to intervene.

“It’s government’s obligation now to ensure that the laws are being followed,” said B.C. Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux, who represents the riding of Surrey-Panorama.

“The citizens of Surrey have been waiting for this … and it’s time for government to step in and ensure that they have that opportunity.”

Cities governed by the province

In any dispute between a province and a city, the province tends to holds the upper hand. 

“Usually a local government official will huff and puff, but be pretty careful not to dare the provincial government,” said Frank Leonard, the former President of the Union of B.C. Municipalities and longtime Mayor of Saanich.

While municipalities have many powers, they are constitutionally creatures of the province. In B.C., they’re governed via the Community Charter — which the government amended months ago to prevent cities from putting in a veto around ride-hailing. 

Doug McCallum speaks with Stephen Quinn about the decision to bar Uber and Lyft from entering the Surrey transportation market. 15:06

Leonard recalled plenty of disputes during his time in government where a city tried to press a dispute with the province, including debates over the proposed Canada Line. 

But they usually ended the same way.  

“The first thing a local government says is ‘well, we are independent within our jurisdiction. This is our jurisdiction. Go away,'” said Leonard.

“But the rulebook is owned by the provincial government.” 

Uber has been operating in Surrey, B.C., since receiving approval last week from B.C.’s independent Passenger Transportation Board. McCallum says the company is operating illegally without a city business licence. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Politics matter as much as policy

However, these sorts of disputes are about more than just what’s in the rules.

“We can talk legal logistics and legislation, but at the same time can’t ignore the politics of the situation,” said Leonard.

While one can question how people in Surrey feel about ride-hailing, all six NDP MLAs from Surrey did not respond to requests for comment from CBC News on Tuesday.

Perhaps another reason why Trevena suggested Uber consider legal action instead of waiting for direct action from her government. 

“If one of the companies … [with] a license for operating ride hailing feels they are being blocked, there is a law in place which says that no municipality can block ride-hailing, and the aggrieved party can test that law,” she said. 

Two hours after she said that, Uber announced they had filed to apply for an injunction in the B.C. Supreme Court. 

Of course, lawsuits can take time to manifest and be ruled on by judges. In the meantime, McCallum can tell people against ride-hailing that he’s fought for them, and Uber drivers could choose to wait until the situation is resolved before risking a $500 fine.   

A frustrating situation for some. But likely not for McCallum. 

“He may not lose if he loses,” said Leonard.

“If … his position is overriden, he doesn’t lose politically because he still fought for his base. That’s sometimes the sorry side of politics. You look to blame somebody else for an outcome.” 

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Airlines cut service, suspend flights to China over coronavirus fears – Global News



British Airways and Asian budget carriers Lion Air and Seoul Air are suspending flights to China as fears spread about the outbreak of a new virus that has killed more than 130 people.

Several other airlines including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are reducing the number of flights to the country as demand for travel drops because of the outbreak.

British Airways said Wednesday it is immediately suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to the country amid a virus outbreak.

READ MORE: Health ministry says 4 Japanese evacuees from Wuhan taken to hospital with cough, fever

The airline operates daily flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to Shanghai and Beijing. It took the measure a day after Britain’s Foreign Office updated its travel advice on China, warning against “all but essential travel” to the mainland, not including Hong Kong and Macao.

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Air Canada said on Jan. 28 it was cancelling select flights to China to better match capacity with expected demand.

Air Seoul, a budget airline, became the first South Korean airline to suspend its fights to mainland Chinese destinations that wasn’t Wuhan, stopping its flights to the cities of Zhangjiajie and Linyi.

Lion Air said it has cancelled more than 50 flights to China well into February. The flights are from five international airports in Denpasar, Manado, Surabaya, Jakarta and Batam to 15 airports in China.

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Ontario confirms first presumptive case of corona virus in Canada

Lion Group spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantor said the suspension would be phased in gradually and would continue until further notice.

China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. The outbreak has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad.

Hong Kong airlines are cutting the number of their flights to the mainland by about half through the end of March in response to government virus-control efforts.

Cathay Pacific Group said flights to 24 mainland destinations would be reduced to 240 weekly. The company owns Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong Airlines, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong Express.

Too early to know if China lockdown effective in limiting coronavirus spread: experts

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Helsinki, Finland-based Finnair, which has actively promoted its position linking Asian and Western destinations, said it was cancelling three weekly flights to Beijing Daxing International Airport through late March, as well as its twice-weekly flights to Nanjing. It will continue operating flights to four other mainland Chinese destinations, including Beijing Capital Airport.

Jetstar Asia said it will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Hefei, Guiyang and Xuzhou starting Thursday through the end of March due to a drop in demand.

Travelers in U.S. don face masks to protest against novel corona virus, though officials say risk of illness in country low

Travelers in U.S. don face masks to protest against novel corona virus, though officials say risk of illness in country low

South Korea’s second-largest carrier, Asiana Airlines, said it will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Guilin, Changsha and Haikou starting next month.

Korean Air, South Korea’s biggest airline, said it is also considering grounding some of its flights to mainland China as passenger demand drops. Korean Air had operated four flights a week to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, before suspending them on Jan. 23.

Taiwan’s Eva Air announced a partial cancellation of flights to and from mainland China for two weeks starting Feb. 2. In addition, the airline also has stopped providing towels, magazines, table clothes, and is limiting blanket and pillow in flight.

— with a file from Reuters

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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