Calgary city council made the right call on Uber, Unconventional panel says

This week's question for the Calgary Eyeopener's Unconventional Panel - has Calgary missed the boat on Uber?

If the company doesn't like the rules, it can go elsewhere, panel argues

The Unconventional Panel says Calgary's ride-hailing bylaw makes sense, despite Uber's argument that the bylaw is "unworkable." (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

Uber says Calgary's ride-hailing bylaw will make the company unable to operate in the city.

The city says if Uber wants to operate in Calgary, it has to follow the rules. 

The new regulations have divided councillors and Calgarians alike over the $62.5-billion company, which wants to enter the Calgary market.

And so this week's question for the Calgary Eyeopener's Unconventional Panel — has Calgary missed the boat on Uber?

Does Calgary need Uber? The ride-hailing company has announced that it won't be operating in Calgary anytime soon because of new bylaws passed by Calgary city council. Our Unconventional Panel weighs in on the issue. 9:32

The panel agrees that while Uber is a transformative technology and idea, the regulations approved by council on Monday are fair. 

"It is the responsible way to approach what is just one example of new technology," said panelist Shelley Youngblut, the general director of Wordfest. "There's nothing magical about Uber."

A few months ago, Mike Morrison said he'd have been an advocate for having Uber in Calgary. But now, the man behind Mike's Bloggity Blog said he feels differently.

"Somewhere along the lines, they lost me," said Morrison. "They're valued at $62 billion but they seem to be playing this 'woe is us' game in Calgary."

Wednesday's Unconventional Panel, left to right: George Brookman, Shelley Youngblut and Mike Morrison (CBC)

Before city council's vote, Uber launched a campaign in Calgary urging residents to write to their councillors and ask them to vote against what the company called "unworkable" regulations. Morrison said Uber's messaging got lost underneath the company's protest.

"I'm a prime Uber user and I've used it, but for some reason, their campaign definitely turned me off."

Taxi service improving

George Brookman, the CEO of West Canadian, credited Calgary's taxi companies for stepping up and improving service in the past few years. 

"They've added cabs at night, there's more drivers, the cabs are cleaner, and it's just a whole better experience," he said. "I'm pretty empathetic to the taxi drivers who have put up a lot of money to buy those licenses and drive those cars."

But something is still stumping Brookman.

"I can't figure out why every city in the world has got Uber, and ours can't make it work." Brookman said. "Is it some petulant attitude on Uber's part or city council's part? I don't know the answer."

Win-lose situation

On one hand, the Unconventionals say that Calgary comes out on top by creating smart and responsible regulations around ride-hailing.

"I think we're getting kind of blindsided by the fact that Calgary said, 'yes.' They said 'yes' on the terms that Calgary set," Youngblut said.

But the regulations also mean that some Calgarians are missing out on valuable job opportunities as well as another option for getting home safely, said Morrison. Uber is also a sign of how technology is changing the way we live, he added.

"It is a part of innovation," Morrison said. "If every other city has it and people come here and they can't use it, then that's a mark on Calgary."


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