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Uber suspends operations in Edmonton over insurance delay

Insurance for drivers in Alberta who work for ride-hailing services like Uber will not be ready until July 1, four months after Edmonton's bylaw comes into effect.

Uber drivers must have Class 4 licence, police check, province says

The transportation minister set out new rules for drivers of ride-hailing vehicles. The insurance designed for ride-hailing cars won't be available until July. 1:17

Uber is suspending operations in Edmonton as of 6 a.m. Tuesday after the province failed to make insurance available for its drivers.

"The province has cost thousands of Edmonton families a source of income by forcing Uber to suspend operations in the city," Ramit Kar, Uber's general manager for Alberta, said in a statement late Monday.

"Uber will respect the government's decisions, and a temporary suspension will take effect at 6:00 a.m. on March 1, unfortunately depriving tens of thousands of local riders a safe, affordable and reliable transportation alternative."

Kar said it will continue to operate in communities outside Edmonton.

Edmonton's ride-hailing bylaw comes into effect on Tuesday. It requires drivers to carry insurance specifically tailored to ride-hailing companies.

However the province announced Monday the insurance would not be available until July 1.

Transportation Minister Brian Mason also announced that the province was rejecting Uber's request to waive the requirement for drivers to have Class 4 licences, which are required for commercial operators. 

Uber drivers will also have to pass a police information check, he said. 

"It's our position that people driving vehicles for commercial purposes are not using their vehicles for the same purposes as those with a Class 5 licence," Mason said. 

"The bottom line is that the Class 4 requirement is essential for the safety of both passengers and drivers."

In light of Mason's announcement, Uber officials asked the City of Edmonton to postpone implementation of the bylaw until July 1, allowing them to continue operating in an environment free of regulations for another four months.

Mayor Don Iveson said it was too late to postpone the bylaw.  

"There isn't really a mechanism to stop it this late in the game, so the bylaw will be in effect tomorrow,", he said. 

Intact Insurance has developed a policy specifically for companies like Uber, but it needed approval from Alberta's superintendent of insurance. 

"We're really hopeful that the province takes the opportunity to approve this product," said Ramit Kar, president of Uber Alberta.

The Intact policy would be purchased by Uber, and would cover all of its drivers when they pick up passengers.

Last month, Edmonton legalized Uber, making it the first Canadian city to do so, but drivers for the ride-hailing service need provincially-approved insurance before they can operate in the city starting March 1. (CBC)

Last week, Intact said the superintendent of insurance approved the technical aspects of the policy, but hadn't reached a final agreement. 

Kar said if approved, all Uber drivers will be covered immediately.

"It's not like there would be any lead time between an announcement and when we would be in compliance," he said.

Uber had also asked that its drivers not be required to get Class 4 licences, which require drivers to pass an additional written exam and a road test.

Calgary has also approved regulations that would legalize Uber, but Kar said the company has opted not to resume operations there.

He described Calgary's $220 annual per-driver licensing fees and relatively stringent requirements for background checks and vehicle inspections as "unworkable" for Uber drivers, particular those who work part-time.

Kar called on Calgary to adopt rules more similar to those approved by Edmonton last month

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