Taxi driver calls mayor 'puppet of Uber' after Watson compared cabbies to 'thugs'
City says video footage alone can't be used to lay charges against Uber drivers
A taxi driver is calling Ottawa's mayor a "puppet of Uber" after the mayor said the driver and four others resembled a gang of "thugs" in a YouTube video that shows them secretly filming Uber drivers.
The drivers said they're recording Uber drivers in an effort to gather evidence against them and to help the city's bylaw department crack down on unlicensed taxi operators.
"He thinks of us as thugs, but we think of him as a puppet of Uber. That's my opinion, everybody has his own opinion," said Blueline taxi driver Roy Noja on Thursday.
"I know he's the mayor, I know he has a job to do. With all due respect, this is not the perfect word to use about us."
Noja and four other taxi drivers posted a video on YouTube showing them taking an Uber ride on Monday night.
Mayor Jim Watson said the video posted on YouTube only hurts the cause of taxi drivers in their battle with the Uber ride-sharing service.
"It does not help the situation when this sort of gang, posse is going around and secretly videotaping people and their cars," Watson said on Thursday. "It makes them look like they're thugs or engaged in vigilante activity, which I think harms them and [doesn't help] the cause."
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The city said that for safety reasons, people shouldn't collect their own evidence to assist bylaw investigations. Instead, residents should call 311.
The city also said video footage on its own can't be used to lay charges against Uber drivers because the bylaw department would still need to conduct its own investigation.
Watson expressed sympathy for those who earn a living driving taxis, but he added bylaw officials should take care of evidence gathering.
"You don't want to see that industry die. In many instances those people are living at or below the poverty line. Obviously Uber is affecting their livelihood," the mayor said.
"But to take almost this vigilante kind of approach — all jammed into a cab with a video recorder — doesn't make any sense."
'We will continue doing that'
Nola said he planned to continue his fight against Uber.
"What we did is to help the City of Ottawa and the bylaw [department], and to give them enough evidence as proof that what they're doing is illegal. And we're going to share every evidence that we have, to give it to them so they can go after them," Noja said Wednesday.
Noja, who said he came up with the idea to film Uber drivers in their vehicles without telling them, told CBC News he was the man seen in a verbal altercation filmed and posted on YouTube in June.
In the video, Noja berates an Ottawa bylaw officer who questioned where Noja was parked.
"You go fight Uber. Why don't you go fight Uber for that?" Noja is seen telling the bylaw officer in the video.
"If you have better things to do, go fight Uber. I'm working for my money to pay for my three kids, do you understand?"
Noja was charged with acting discourteously in front of a customer in relation to the incident. The matter is due back in court on Aug. 12.