Edmonton

Uber spurns bylaw that would legalize ride-hailing in Edmonton

City council hopes to move forward with plans to legalize Uber in Edmonton, but it's facing opposition from the company and local taxi associations.

Council will debate plan next week to allow Uber and similar companies

Next week city council will debate the proposed bylaw to legalize Uber and companies like it. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

City council hopes to move forward with plans to legalize Uber in Edmonton, but is facing opposition from the company and local taxi associations.

City staff released a proposed bylaw on Thursday that would create a new class of licenses for transportation network companies like Uber.

The opportunity for legalization comes with conditions, and would require drivers to meet provincial standards for driver licences and insurance.

"It's really not unreasonable to ask for those two things," Coun. Andrew Knack said.

But Uber spokesperson Jean-Christophe de Le Rue said without changes to the bylaw, the company will not be able to function in Edmonton.

"We are hopeful city council will consider amendments that will keep ride-sharing in the city," de Le Rue said, reading from a written statement.

He would not elaborate on which elements of the bylaw Uber dislikes.

Uber has been operating illegally in Edmonton since January.

The provincial government has assembled a cross-ministry committee to study the possibility of adjusting the rules for companies like Uber.

Mayor Don Iveson said that issue will need to be resolved before council allows any changes on the road. In the meantime, he said he hopes the bylaw sends the signal that council wants to increase the supply of rides for passengers.

"I think the best way to provide that new supply is with private transportation providers," Iveson said.

He hopes Uber will ignite competition with the traditional taxi industry to improve service for the public.

The Driving For Equality Campaign, a coalition of cabbie associations, is also fighting the proposed bylaw.

Spokesperson Pascal Ryffel said the city's plan would create a "free for all," rather than healthy competition.

He said if council wants to improve service, it should simply allow more cabs to operate.

"If you have 10 times as many drivers on the road as you have now, it's going to make it very difficult to make a living," Ryffel said.

He said cab drivers who have worked in the industry for years feel let down by the proposed bylaw.

Councillors will debate the plan on Tuesday.

City staff anticipate council chambers will be packed to capacity. Last time the issue was debated a protest broke out that temporarily shut down proceedings and ended with the police being called.

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