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Hamilton council to vote on licensing Uber

Hamilton city hall will look at creating a new licensing category for UBER and other ride-hailing services – and to stop UBER from operating in the meantime.

Sam Merulla wants to create a new licensing category for the ride hailing service

Hamilton's General Issues Committee has given the green light for staff to make contact with Uber to understand their intentions for Hamilton. (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Hamilton city hall will look at creating a new licensing category for Uber and other ride-hailing services — and try to stop Uber from operating here in the meantime.

At a city council meeting on Feb. 10, Coun. Sam Merulla will move that the city create a category to ensure "consumer and public safety" when it comes to Uber, and a "level playing field" with the taxi industry.

Merulla also wants the city to ask for an interim injunction at Superior Court until the city can properly license them.

The move comes about a week after Edmonton became the first Canadian municipality to legalize Uber. Edmonton councillors gave taxi operators equal rates to Uber and mandated that Uber drivers get the appropriate commercial insurance.

In many respects, it's like chasing your tail.- Mayor Fred Eisenberger

Merulla said he's been working on a Hamilton solution for weeks. He's been watching the ever-evolving way that Canadian cities are trying to legislate the ride-hailing business.

"Every time I'm consulting on the motion, something else happens," he said.

'A level playing field'

Uber has been a tricky issue for Hamilton and other cities since the company came to Canada last year.

The city pledged last year to track down and charge Uber drivers. So far, it's charged 21 Hamilton Uber drivers for driving without a taxi licence, including 13 this month. Uber has pledged to support its drivers and cover the $305 fine.

City council already passed a motion in the fall asking Uber to suspend operations while it examines changes to taxi regulations.

Larry Di Ianni, former Hamilton mayor who has lobbied for the taxi industry, says Merulla's proposal is what local taxi companies have wanted — rules that apply to everyone.

"Essentially, they've been saying all along that there needs to be a level playing field."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger not only supports Merulla's move, but was about to introduce a similar idea himself. Increasingly, the city has accepted that Uber is here to stay. 

"In many respects, it's like chasing your tail," he said of trying to stop Uber.

"Legitimizing them is going to be more open and transparent and safer for users out there."

What Edmonton's doing

Last week, Edmonton council said said the company can operate as long as its drivers get legal commercial insurance approved by the province. 

The new rules take effect March 1. In the meantime, Uber has pledged not to operate in Edmonton until its drivers can get the proper insurance.

Edmonton council also set a minimum price of $3.25 per trip for rides from Uber and other private transportation providers. Otherwise, the bylaw deregulates fares for Uber and taxi rides arranged through an app. 

The city will still regulate taxi rides hailed on the street, at a cab stand or ordered over the phone.

The company will pay a rate of $70,000 a year to operate in Edmonton. 

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