Uber drivers, supporters march on Alberta's legislature demanding changes

Over a hundred Uber drivers and supporters made their way to the legislature on Saturday with signs and chants aplenty to demand the province keeps them on the road.

Uber says if changes don't happen it 'will have to suspend operations in Alberta altogether'

Over a hundred of Uber supporters made their way to the legislature grounds on Saturday, Feb 27. (CBC)

"Don't be a gruber, let's keep Uber," they chanted. 

Over a hundred Uber drivers and supporters made their way to the legislature on Saturday with signs and chants aplenty to demand the province keeps them on the road. 

The group, working from the shadow of an ever shortening deadline, March 1, wants the province to approve Uber's proposed insurance framework so they can meet the requirements of Edmonton's recently passed bylaw. 

Ramit Kar, Uber Alberta's general manager, said if the government doesn't act and the group has to comply with the bylaw than it will have no choice but to halt operations in Alberta. 

Ramit Kar said Uber will have to cease operations in Alberta if some changes aren't made to the proposed legislation. (CBC)

"Despite our best efforts, things could grind to a halt next week," Kar said to a crowd booing the sentiment.

"Without action by the provincial government in coming days, Uber will have to suspend operations in Alberta altogether.

"As it currently stands right now, given the situation that the provincial government has before it, we will, unfortunately, have to cease operations, and the thousand of riders and thousands of drivers will be impacted."  

Pulling at heartstrings

Uber was hoping to tug at the heartstrings of Albertans. 

The supporters carried signs referencing the province's current economic woes and brought forward people who have been laid off and turned to Uber for income. 

One Uber driver who spoke at the rally said the direction the government takes will have a very real impact on him and his family.

"Uber means very much to me being a single father of three," he said. "This is the only source of income for many of us here. 

"With the recession in Alberta today we can't afford to lose 4000 new jobs." 

Others said they will have to leave the province if the changes don't happen.

Othmen Bouattour, who comes from Calgary to drive with Uber in Edmonton every week, said he would have to leave the country. 

"As a permanent resident here, I promise those guys in this nice parliament, I [will have to go] back to my country," said Othmen Bouattour. 

"All of my family will do that." 

Calgarian Luke Thomson made $240 in one night as an Uber driver in Edmonton. That's more than enough to cover Calgary's new annual per-driver fee. 3:15

Proposed changes

Uber wants the government to show flexibility in the insurance regulations for those who drive for the ride-hailing company. 

Aileen Machell, an Alberta Transportation spokesperson, said in a statement they have been in talks with Intact Insurance, but as of yet no agreement has been reached

That said, the department remains adamant they want to find a compromise. 

"We are committed to finding an appropriate solution allowing ride-for-hire companies to operate in a fair manner, while also protecting drivers, passengers, and other road users," Machell said.

"We are dealing with several issues including licencing and insurance and we need to address all these issues at once and not in a piecemeal fashion."

Edmonton's bylaw — which made it the first Canadian city to legalize the company — states drivers must have commercial insurance and subject their cars to annual inspections.

Despite our best efforts, things could grind to a halt next week- Ramit Kar

In Calgary a bylaw that may take effect in April requires, alongside other regulations, a driver must have a Class-4 licence to operate. Uber, for their part, want any licence to work saying their driver rating system is adequate for protecting customers. 

Kar hoped this rally would turn some heads and change some minds in the legislature. 

"We hope that the voice this group and the many voices they represent, are heard by the province and that we see action soon," Kar said to the supporters at the rally.

"We hope to continue to see you on the road."

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