Montreal

Quebec adopts taxi reforms despite stiff opposition from industry

Quebec legislators adopted a new law late Thursday that will deregulate the province's taxi industry despite strong resistance from drivers and opposition parties.

Proposed law drew protests up until the very last minute as taxi drivers opposed plan

Taxi drivers have been fighting Bill 17 for several months and even held protests Thursday before it was adopted by the Quebec government. (Jérôme Bergeron/Radio-Canada)

Quebec legislators adopted a new law late Thursday that will deregulate the province's taxi industry despite strong resistance from drivers and opposition parties.

Bill 17 abolishes the costly taxi permit system while integrating app-based ride-hailing services into provincial regulations.

Members of the Coalition Avenir Québec government voted for Bill 17, while all opposition parties voted against.

Transport Minister François Bonnardel said there will be a period of transition as the industry adapts.

"We don't know how Uber, how Lyft, how Eva will extend their model of [business]," he said.

"We will see after a year."

The province will be setting aside $814 million dollars to compensate taxi permit holders — an amount industry representatives say isn't enough.

George Boussios, president of Champlain Taxi and the spokesperson for an association of Montreal taxi companies, wants to be assured taxi permit holders will be fairly compensated.

He is also concerned an influx in new drivers for ride-hailing companies will lead to an oversaturated market.

"There needs to be a quota," he said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"Yes, the consumer is one part of it. What about the people who need to make a living? There is more to this than getting a taxi or an Uber in three minutes instead of five minutes."

François Bonnardel, Quebec's minister of transportation, says there will be a period of adjustment now that Bill 17 was adopted. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

Taxi drivers in Quebec's rural areas held protests throughout the day Thursday. They opposed a portion of the bill that removes limits on how many taxi cars are allowed to operate in an area. 

Protesters said removing those limits means rural areas will be abandoned as taxi drivers head to busier urban centres in search of fares and, in turn, competition for those urban fares will go up.

Echoing the concerns of industry representatives, Liberal MNA Gaétan Barrette said he expects an impact on driver's wages.

"When Uber comes in, salaries and wages go down," he said.

"I strongly feel that, at the end of the process, we will have a high number of drivers earning less than minimum wage and this is something we should not be happy about."

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