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UberX debate shifts from Quebec streets to political arena

Provincial hearings on regulating ride-hailing services such as UberX began in Quebec City today amid protests and a new call for a criminal investigation into the company.

Representatives from taxi industry, Uber make their case at province's National Assembly

Taxi drivers demonstrates as a provincial committee studies the legality of Uber on Thursday at the National Assembly in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Provincial hearings on regulating ride-hailing services such as UberX began in Quebec City today amid protests and a new call for a criminal investigation into the company.

The hearings, by Quebec's transportation and environment commission, come as friction between taxi drivers and UberX drivers intensified this week.

On Thursday morning, Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir and four taxi owners took their concerns to provincial police's economic crimes squad. 

Khadir told reporters he's hopeful provincial police will pursue fraud charges against UberX for providing an "illegal transportation" service. 

At the same time, a rally in support of Uber, which included testimony from drivers, was held in Montreal.

Taxi drivers demonstrate outside the National Assembly in Quebec on Thursday. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, general manager for Uber Montreal, said the province should listen to the will of the population, citing a recent petition signed by 50,000 people in favour of the ride-hailing app. 

Guillemette said he will use the hearings to make a case for the province to regulate Uber in a way that "embraces technology."

Transport Minister Jacques Daoust said the hearings aren't just about Uber — they are about regulating the industry as it evolves along with new technology. He said Uber will need to get permits to operate on the road.

On Wednesday, hundreds of taxi drivers held a protest in downtown Montreal. One UberX driver said he was the target of an egging ambush by taxi drivers.

Six organizations or companies presented briefs Thursday. They included Uber Québec and the Regroupement des travailleurs autonomes Métallos (RTAM) — the group representing Montreal's 4,000 taxi drivers.

The hearings run over five days, to March 10.

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