Montreal

Quebec's taxi bill opens door to ride-booking apps — with conditions

Bill 17, tabled Wednesday, imposes rules on Uber and other ride-booking apps, including a requirement to inform customers of the maximum fare they'd be charged before they accept a ride.

CAQ government, elected on promise to modernize taxi industry, tables Bill 17

Quebec's Bill 17 will permit hailing rides through online apps like Uber, but it says the customer must be 'informed of the maximum fare and to agree to it before a driver is informed of the trip request.' (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel tabled a bill Wednesday that he says will modernize the taxi industry in the era of app-based ride-booking services.

Bill 17 stipulates that only taxis would be able to respond when a customer flags down a ride on the street or requests one by telephone. However, it also opens the door to app-based ride-hailing services like Uber.

If the bill becomes law, the app-based service will be required to inform customers of the maximum fare they could face, and the customer will have to agree to it "before a driver is informed of the trip request."

Bonnardel said last month that he would bring forward the legislation, to reduce the administrative, regulatory and financial burden on operators.

He said at that time the legislation would put an end to various pilot projects launched by Philippe Couillard's government, including one allowing Uber to operate in three cities in the province: Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau.

The controversial pilot project was renewed for a year by the former Liberal transport minister, André Fortin, on Oct. 12, just before the Legault government was sworn in.

The newly elected CAQ government said at that time it agreed with the one-year extension because it gave the new government time to develop its own policies.

That extension outraged taxi drivers, who accused Uber of operating taxis without the safety, tax and commercial standards imposed on their industry.

A class action suit brought against the province by taxi drivers was authorized by Quebec's Superior Court a few days later. A victory for the drivers on this issue could cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars.

The government announced Monday it will spend another $250 million to compensate taxi drivers who have watched the value of their permits plunge since Uber's arrival in Quebec.

This new sum will bring the amount that Quebec has compensated the taxi industry to $500 million.

With files from Radio-Canada

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