Edmonton's Uber legalization brings Calgary drivers north

Every Friday Abd Al-Minshdawi packs up his Dodge Caliber and makes the long drive from Calgary to Edmonton. Once there he will pick up and drop off commuters for Uber throughout the whole weekend.

Every weekend Abd Al-Minshdawi makes the long journey north to work for Uber

Abd Al-Minshdawi, an Iraqi immigrant, can't find work in the oil field so he has turned to Uber. (CBC)

Every Friday Abd Al-Minshdawi packs up his Dodge Caliber and makes the long drive from Calgary to Edmonton.

Once there he will pick up and drop off commuters for Uber until late Sunday evening when he will turn around and head home. He does this drive week in, week out.

All for his family. 

Thirteen months ago Al-Minshdawi and his family immigrated to Canada from Iraq after a long four-year wait. In Iraq, he worked as a heavy-duty mechanic in the oil field for a decade.

When the 49-year-old came to Calgary he hoped to find a similar job. 

The price of oil was in the tanks when Al-Minshdawi arrived, and it had taken Alberta's once vibrant job market with it. He got further training and pounded the pavement looking for work, but couldn't find any, so, at the end of last year, he turned to Uber. 

He says he doesn't make much, but it's something.

"Some guys say, 'you don't make too much money, why are you doing this?'," said Al-Minshdawi.

Only this way can I help me and my family.- Abd Al-Minshdawi

"Only this way can I help me and my family. Sometime it's $100 a week sometimes it's $120, but it's better than nothing."

In late 2015, Calgary temporarily outlawed Uber after a judge ruled hundreds of drivers were breaking the law by getting behind the wheel and picking up rides.

But some 300 kilometers to the north a different story was being told. Edmonton's city council took a different tone and voted to legalize the ride-sharing company. 

So Al-Minshdawi headed north. 
Uber says that there are other Calgary drivers making the trip to Edmonton to work. (CBC)

Uber's Canadian communication lead, Xavier Van Chau, says that Al-Minshdawi isn't the only driver from Calgary heading to Alberta's capital for work.

"The economic downturn is pushing a lot of Albertans to seek out new income opportunities," Van Chau said in a statement. 

"That has led some Calgarians to partner with Uber and drive in Edmonton while they wait on action from Calgary City Council.

"Technology offers us new ways to earn, and Uber is working with officials at all levels of government throughout the province to bring the benefits of ridesharing to all Albertans."

The money that Al-Minshdawi does make is offset by the cost of gas for his bi-weekly journey, rent for a room to stay in Edmonton, and insurance, but he says that he makes enough on these weekend jaunts to cover some of his family's bills. 

Calgary is home for him and his family — it's where he takes his English classes and where his daughter's friends live — and he won't relocate. 

So until the job market picks up, he'll keep making the drive north. 

For his family.


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