Mass UberX protest by Montreal taxis sparks official calls to suspend app
Quebec transport minister, Montreal mayor call for halt to UberX operations
Quebec Transport Minister Jacques Daoust and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre are calling for the suspension of UberX while a government committee examines how taxis and the popular app-based ride service can co-exist in the province.
The calls to suspend UberX come in the wake of a demonstration Wednesday that saw hundreds of taxis disrupt traffic at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.
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Those hearings are set to begin later this month.
Daoust said Wednesday he considers the UberX app illegal, and believes the government needs to come up with a permanent solution that ensures a level playing field for taxi drivers.
"What we see is that when you don't need a taxi permit, when you don't need an inspection, of course you'll be able to offer a good price," he said.
The minister's call today for a suspension of UberX echoed a similar appeal by Coderre, who called for a truce while the committee conducts its inquiry.
"This is very emotional, and I think we need to address this in a more serene way," the Montreal mayor said Wednesday.
"We need a truce. I think that's the point we're at. We need a truce while the committee does its work and during this period UberX should cease its activities."
Mayor accused of defending 'monopoly interests'
Uber said the calls for a suspension of its UberX service put the interests of the taxi industry ahead of the service's 350,000 customers and 8,000 drivers in Quebec.
It's the minister of transport and the premier that are punishing people, not us.— Hassan Kattoua, taxi driver
"It is unfortunate to see that once again Mayor Coderre [is] seeking to protect the monopoly interests of the taxi industry while overlooking the majority of Montrealers who have made clear their desire for safe, reliable and affordable transportation options," the company said.
Protest organizers declared victory and ordered an end to the airport disruption.
Benôit Jugand, spokesman for the Regroupement des travailleurs autonomes métallos (RTAM) said earlier in the day the protest was provoked by the province's failure to meet the group's "simple demand" to have Uber cease operations while a parliamentary committee looks into the matter.
RTAM said 800 drivers and owners took part in the "blockade" of the airport.
As the protest unfolded, traffic flow in the area where travellers board taxis was brought to a standstill, with hundreds of taxis lined up bumper to bumper.
Montreal police had issued a release in advance of the protest, reminding taxi drivers that it is illegal to block access to airports.
Protesters encountered a heavy police presence as they arrived at the airport.
Union claims Uber operates at airport
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Jugand said the airport was being targeted because UberX drivers are still picking up clients there despite a $2.5-million exclusive contract between taxi owners and the airport.
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The airport authority issued a clarification of the claim on Wednesday, saying the Uber app does not work at the terminal, and that it is in talks with Uber and the city's taxi bureau to ensure UberX drivers aren't taking clients to and from the airport.
"It's the minister of transport and the premier that are punishing people, not us. We've shown a lot of restraint for the past two years," taxi driver Hassan Kattoua said.
"In Montreal, you cannot sell chewing gum if you don't pay the GST and PST. How can a multi-billion-dollar company come and practise this tax evasion for the past two years and get unpunished. There's something weird going on."