Montreal

Quebec introduces legislation aimed at cracking down on Uber

Quebec's transportation minister has proposed new rules for the taxi industry that are aimed at cracking down on the popular ride-hailing service UberX.

Proposed rules include stiff fines for operating a 'transportation service' without a licence

Quebec Transport Minister Jacques Daoust, right, is seen here last month alongside Premier Philippe Couillard. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

UberX drivers will be forced to get taxi permits if they want to keep operating in Quebec, under new rules proposed Thursday by the province's transportation minister.

Jacques Daoust's bill introduces a series of amendments to provincial laws regulating the taxi industry that are aimed at cracking down on the popular ride-hailing service.

Uber has warned that if it is subject to too much government regulation it would close its Quebec operation.

But Daoust told a news conference the legislation is aimed at levelling the playing field in Quebec and ensuring everyone follows the rules, not at pushing out Uber.

"I don't know if they will walk out of Quebec," he said about Uber. "It's their decision. It's not my decision. They decided to come to Quebec, if they decide to leave Quebec, it's a private-sector company. It's their decision."

In a statement, Uber said it's still studying the proposed legislation.

"In the coming days, we will have detailed comments so that we can share with Quebecers the impact of this bill," said Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, speaking for Uber Canada.

Fines up to $50K

If passed, the act would require "remunerated passenger transportation services," including UberX, to use a taxi permit or face stiff fines.

Anyone offering taxi transportation services without holding a permit would face fines of $2,500 to $25,000. The company could be fined up to $50,000.

Among the other key points in the legislation: 

  • The province would have the power to determine the total number of taxi permits for specific areas, including Montreal.
  • Fare pricing would be set by the Commission des transports du Québec and would vary depending on the area or whether an app is used to hail the taxi or Uber.
  • New powers to the province would punish those who don't comply with the act, including the possibility of suspending the driver's licence. 
  • Drivers across the industry would be required to accept electronic payment.

​The legislation also includes changes aimed at making the roads safer for cyclists, including stiffer fines for hitting a cyclist with their vehicle doors, and an increased minimum distance for passing a cyclist while in a vehicle.

Simmering debate

A taxi driver is confronted by an Uber driver during a demonstration against proposed legislation restricting their ride-hailing service last month. The proposed rules were introduced Thursday by the province's transportation minister. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The new bill comes amid heated debate related to the regulation of Uber and the taxi industry.

Uber has said if the province's rules go too far, it would shut down the app in the province.

The taxi industry, meanwhile, welcomed the legislation.

Guy Chevrette, spokesman for the Quebec taxi coalition, said it's been a rough two years for the industry and that the group is satisfied with the bill. 

"This is job security for people who paid dearly for their right to this job," he told reporters Thursday.

Guy Chevrette, spokesman for the Quebec taxi coalition, said he's satisfied with the proposed legislation. (CBC)

However, he said there are parts of the law that are ambiguous and will have to be clarified. They include who will have the task of enforcing some of the new policies.

Taxi drivers have staged protests and blocked traffic in downtown Montreal and at the Montreal and Quebec City airports over the past several months to denounce UberX.

The taxi industry has argued it's unfair that UberX be allowed to operate without following the same rules for cab drivers.

Closed to new technology?

Quebec's Liberal government has faced criticism for its approach to new technology, with the province also recently putting new limits on Airbnb renters.

On Thursday, Daoust rejected any suggestion the province is taking a backward approach to growing the economy.

"The perception that we're not comfortable with new technology is wrong," he said.

Other cities, such as Toronto, have taken a different approach, with the city voting to loosen restrictions on UberX, allowing drivers to pick up passengers without a taxi licence.

Calgary, by contrast, introduced rules that led Uber to suspend operations in the city.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that anyone offering taxi transportation services without holding a permit would face fines of up $5,000. In fact, the maximum fine is $25,000.
    May 12, 2016 10:09 PM ET

With files from Ryan Hicks and Kamila Hinkson

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