Cabbies park at Winnipeg city hall to send message to mayor on Uber-enabling regulations

Dozens of cab drivers converged on Winnipeg city hall Wednesday morning to observe a council meeting where the agenda did not include any votes related to the regulation of their industry, or services such as Uber and Lyft.

No vote related to ride-hailing services today, but EPC will consider push for more taxi industry input

Taxis were parked along King Street on Wednesday morning while drivers observed a council meeting.

Dozens of cab drivers converged on city hall Wednesday morning to send Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman a message about their desire to be consulted about the way their industry will be regulated after services such as Uber and Lyft come to the city.

Cab drivers filled both sides of the council chamber gallery during the first few hours of city council's September meeting, ostensibly in support of an effort by Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie to ensure cab drivers will have some input into regulations the city is expecting to enact after the province enables ride-hailing services to operate in Winnipeg.

The city is preparing to develop those regulations, even though the province has yet to pass its legislation around ride-hailing services, which it introduced in March. Last week, Bowman urged all provincial MLAs to support the bill.

​Before the city's regulations are developed, Eadie  and Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt want the mayor to create a working group that will include taxicab representation. A motion authored by the duo has been referred automatically to an executive policy committee meeting in October.

Several cab drivers at city hall told CBC News they were not aware there was no vote on the regulations at council on Wednesday. Some said they were asked to attend by their peers, while others said they were asked to come to city hall because they were led to believe there would be a vote.

Cab drivers fill the gallery at city council on Wednesday. (Bartley Kives/CBC)
"We don't mind the competition. We just want to have a fair, level playing field," said Jaspal Bedi, a Duffy's Taxi owner-operator. "We were here to say, 'We should be involved in the decision making.'"

Eadie took responsibility for the presence of the cab drivers, expressing concern that Winnipeg's ride-hailing regulations could threaten the livelihoods of more than 400 drivers in favour of a ride-hailing company that he fears will not be subject to the same insurance policies as taxis.

"Uber is a very aggressive, inconsiderate, money-making monolith. Let's be clear. What is the problem with insuring? Like, just having a Class 4 driver's licence doesn't mean you should be able to drive consumers," Eadie told reporters during council's lunch-hour break.

During the morning session of council, Bowman faced criticism from several non-EPC councillors for the way Winnipeg has prepared for the arrival of services such as Uber and Lyft.

Eadie asked the mayor why the city would bother to prepare new regulations when the province has not passed its legislation. Bowman responded by saying Winnipeg would be criticized if it did not plan for the inevitable.

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty asked the mayor to commit to meeting with the taxi industry. Bowman said he would be happy to meet with Browaty and wondered how a council conservative could be opposed to competition in the ride-hailing industry.

Browaty said he is not opposed to Uber but does wonder why the mayor is against consultations.

Duffy's Taxi owner-operator Jaspal Bedi said he wants a level playing field with Uber. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)
Under separate questioning from St. Charles Coun. Shawn Dobson, Bowman said he has met once with a representative from Uber but has not received any requests from the taxicab industry.

The mayor said he has received requests to meet from three individual cab drivers, all of whom should be accommodated by his office. He also said it is unclear who Dobson, Browaty and Eadie want him to meet. 

In a statement, the Winnipeg Taxi Alliance —  a coalition of industry drivers and employees — said its members would be pleased to meet with Bowman.

"Our members have communicated with his office and all members of council, by phone and email, on a number of issues, since our founding in 2015," spokesperson Michael Diamond said via email.

"We support Coun. Eadie's motion, and we would be pleased to participate in extensive and meaningful consultations."

The designated area for the taxi queue at Richardson International Airport was almost empty on Wednesday morning. (John Einarson/CBC)
The presence of so many cab drivers at city hall caused a morning shortage of cabs at Winnipeg's Richardson International Airport, which issued a warning about a shortage of cabs.

Cabbies want level playing field with Uber

CBC News Manitoba

4 years ago
Dozens of cab drivers converged on city hall Wednesday morning to send Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman a message about their desire to be consulted about the way their industry will be regulated after services such as Uber and Lyft come to the city. 2:05


Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.