Quebec taxi group urges province to take action against Uber in 2016

Quebec taxi drivers are denouncing the provincial government’s lack of effort to halt the ride-hailing service Uber from operating.

Some drivers have threatened to strike, even block bridges and airports in new year

Taxi drivers face stiff competition from the ride-hailing company Uber. (iStock)

Quebec taxi drivers are denouncing the provincial government's lack of effort to stop the ride-hailing service Uber from operating in the province.

This comes after reports that some taxi drivers propose to hold a strike and are even threatening to block bridges and airport entrances at the end of January.

"It would be difficult to support such a strike," said Guy Chevrette, a spokesperson for the Quebec taxi coalition, but added: "the anger from people in the taxi industry is more than legitimate." 

The coalition represents about 12,000 taxi and limousine drivers across the province.

Though they have yet to decide on whether or not join the strike, Chevrette accused Poeti of using a two-year pilot project to modernize the taxi industry as a distraction for his lack of action against Uber and says taxi drivers are fed up.

"In 2015, we were very patient," said Chevrette. "In 2016, we're going to act."

Illegal but still operating

The San Francisco-based company's UberX service has been declared illegal by the provincial government and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, but so far the service continues to operate here.

For his part, Poeti denies letting Uber off the hook, pointing to 900 Uber cars that have been seized in Quebec so far as evidence that he's taking the matter seriously.

On Monday, he spoke out against Uber's practice of hiking prices during peak periods, such as New Year's Eve, saying that people should avoid using the service and "take a legal taxi" instead.

But union groups say Poeti should tackle the ride-hailing service head on, rather than give advice to customers.

Benoit Jugan, a spokesperson for the United Steelworkers Union, suggested Poeti's inaction may be due to fear of opposing an international company, and that the minister "looks like a guy that's not able to do his job."

Diamond Taxi president Dominique Roy said Poeti's response to the surge pricing issue shows a double standard.

"If I do the same, I'm sure I'm going to get the government right away asking me to shut down my business," Roy said.

"Why are they allowed to continue their business even though everyone says — and it's a reality —  they're illegal?"

A spokesperson for Poeti says the province will continue to work to modernize the taxi industry, including a pilot project to adopt a mobile app for hailing cabs.


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