Laurent Lessard unswayed by taxi industry pleas to suspend Uber deal

Three consecutive meetings with taxi industry representatives on Monday failed to convince Quebec's transport minister to suspend the government's deal with ride-hailing service Uber.

Taxi industry says it will meet Tuesday to plan pressure tactics

Transport Minister Laurent Lessard defended the government's deal with Uber, saying it was inspired by 'best practices.' (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Three consecutive meetings with taxi industry representatives on Monday failed to convince Quebec's transport minister to suspend the government's deal with ride-hailing service Uber. 

Taxi drivers in the province are opposed to a deal, struck last week, that will allow Uber to operate in Quebec for the following year on a pilot-project basis. 

But before deciding on pressure tactics to protest against the deal, industry representatives wanted to meet Transport Minister Laurent Lessard in a last-ditch effort to persuade him to suspend it.

Lessard met separately with three different groups on Monday afternoon. Guy Chevrette, spokesman for the Comité provincial de concertation et de développement de l'industrie du taxi, emerged from the first meeting disappointed. 

"They think they have the truth. They consider Uber to be operating legally," Chevrette said following the meeting at Lessard's Quebec City office.

"It's clear to him [Lessard] that everything is legal, everything is perfect, despite the tangible proof that we've given him." 

Taxi lobby spokesman Guy Chevrette, seen here in a file photo, said his association is considering legal action against the Uber deal. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Warning of unrest

A second meeting with the Regroupement des travailleurs autonomes Métallos, which represents around 4,000 taxi and truck drivers, didn't go any better for the taxi industry.

The group's spokesman, Benoît Jugand, said Lessard was courteous but turned down their request to suspend the Uber deal so they could further consult their members. 

​Jugand warned the government's intransigence could lead to rowdy and disruptive protests by taxi drivers. 

"We have reached a breaking point, and at a certain moment, we won't be able to control our members," he said. 

Taxi industry representatives plan to meet on Tuesday to discuss possible pressure tactics. Chevrette raised the possibility of a legal challenge as well. 

Following the meetings, Lessard defended the Uber deal by saying it was modeled on other jurisdictions where Uber and the taxi industry co-exist. 

"I was inspired by best practices," he said. 

He also pointed out the deal allows the government to unilaterally cancel it if Uber is found to contravene its provisions.

Under the deal, Uber drivers will be forced to acquire a taxi license and will be limited to providing rides through the UberX element of the app. Uber will also pay the government per ride that its drivers offer. 

with files from Ryan Hicks