Cab drivers want cash if Uber moves in
Taxi licenses would be worthless if ride-hailing apps move into Winnipeg, says driver
If Winnipeg taxi drivers are going to be forced to share their customers with ride-hailing apps like Uber, they want to be compensated for it.
Dozens of cab drivers held a rally on the front steps of the Manitoba Legislature Thursday, arguing they should be eligible for compensation if companies like Uber and Lyft allowed to operate in Winnipeg.
Gaspel Bedi, a a cab owner and operator with Duffy's Taxi, said it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase a taxi license and operate in Winnipeg. If Uber arrives in the city, he fears that license would be worthless.
"There are a lot of people over 50 years old who have been in the industry for up to 30 or 40 years. Their whole life's savings is invested in this. This is their retirement money," Bedi said. "[If Uber is allowed in] it's worth zero."
Kinew pledges support
The cab drivers appear to have an advocate in NDP leader Wab Kinew, who vowed Thursday to introduce amendments to a government bill that proposes to compensate cab drivers.
"We're just opening the door that if local small business owners — people who hold taxi licenses, for example — can make the case that they deserve compensation, then that should be a possibility," said Kinew.
The NDP leader also said ride-hailing companies like Uber should have to adhere to similar health and safety standards as cab drivers — a point Bedi readily endorsed.
"If they don't want to compensate us, at least let us be at the same level field. Same insurance for us, same insurance for them," Bedi said. "Same work, same rules for everybody."
Unlike the NDP we have every confidence in our municipalities to create responsible bylaws.- Municipal Affairs Minister Jeff Wharton
The proposed bill, was supposed to receive the second of three readings in the House on Thursday, but an emergency evacuation of the legislature delayed proceedings until next week.
If the bill passes it would dissolve the Manitoba Taxicab Board, placing responsibility for regulation with local municipalities.
In question period NDP MLA Bernadette Smith urged the government to consider the Opposition's concerns around compensation and safety rules before passing a bill that would disolve the Taxicab board. Municipal Affairs Minister Jeff Wharton responded, saying "the [current] system has become riddled with red tape.
"Unlike the NDP we have every confidence in our municipalities to create responsible bylaws just as they do every day in Manitoba."
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is pushing to develop ride-sharing regulations at City Hall in the likely event the proposed legislation becomes law. Two weeks ago, Bowman personally urged all MLAs to pass the legislation, first introduced in March.
Two city councillors, Ross Eadie and Russ Wyatt, asked Bowman last month to establish a "vehicle-for-hire industry working group." That proposal will be considered by the mayor's executive policy committee this month.
On Tuesday, Manitoba Public Insurance told a committee at the Manitoba Legislature the public insurer expects to have a vehicle-for-hire insurance premium approved by the Public Utilities Board in time for the bill's proclamation on Feb. 28.
With files from Laura Glowacki