Hundreds of taxi drivers protested outside the Manitoba Legislative Building on Friday after legislation passed Thursday that paves the way for ride-hailing services like Uber to come to Manitoba.
The Winnipeg Community Taxi Coalition was calling for a host of changes to Bill 30, The Local Vehicles for Hire Act, including requiring safety shields to be installed in vehicles, cameras and extra insurance for ride-hailing drivers.
"Since the last six, seven months, we are struggling," said Tarlochan Gill, chairman of the Unicity Taxi board. "We tried to approach everyone but nobody consulted with us.… Even the premier didn't try to consult with us."
Premier Brian Pallister said that's not true.
"I've had meetings with various owners, various drivers. I expect I'll continue to," he said. "Change is not easy. I have great respect for hard-working people in that industry but I tell you, there's a perfect illustration of the challenges of facing change."
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Pallister said Manitoba is the only jurisdiction in Canada that doesn't have local governments oversee the cab industry.
"That's a change long, long overdue. [The] previous government didn't have the courage to do it. Some would argue [it] used the industry as a political entity moreso than as a service entity. I think the taxi industry should be a service industry," he said.
"I think local governments in Manitoba should be empowered to deal with that as they are in every single other jurisdiction."
NDP MLA and leader of the Opposition Wab Kinew said his party tried to expand the discussion about the impact the bill might have.
"We did broaden out part of that ride-hailing discussion, away from just, 'Uber, yes or no?' back to, 'Well what about the families and jobs that are going to be affected here?'" he said.
The Winnipeg Community Taxi Coalition is set to meet with Mayor Brian Bowman Friday on the issue, to push for safety requirements for drivers in ride-hailing programs.