'They are not leaving': Taxi drivers worry province will strike another deal with Uber

Dozens of taxi drivers took to the streets in a march to the new transport minister's office in downtown Montreal today in hopes of pressuring the government and Uber to respect the taxi law.

Taxi drivers held protest in downtown Montreal to put pressure on new transport minister

Taxi drivers marched on the transport minister's Montreal office to pressure the government not to make any new deals with Uber. The ride-hailing company has said it will leave Quebec this week if the province imposes stricter rules. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Dozens of taxi drivers took to the streets in a march to the newly appointed transport minister's office in downtown Montreal Wednesday in hopes of putting pressure on the government and Uber.

They say they are worried that a last-minute deal will be struck between Uber and the province after the ride-hailing company threatened to cease its operations in Quebec.

"We are here to say to the government to stand up and not go down for Uber," said Wilson Jean Paul, a spokesperson for taxi union RTAM-Métallos.

The ride-hailing company said it will leave Quebec if the province imposes stricter regulations, including making Uber drivers undergo 35 hours of training, just as traditional taxi drivers are required to do.

The government also wants Uber to have criminal background checks on its drivers done by police, instead of by the private companies that do them now, and it wants Uber drivers to have their cars inspected every 12 months.

Uber said it will cease operations on Oct. 14, one year after the pilot project came into effect.

In September, Uber announced it will leave Quebec if the province implements tougher rules. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

'Nothing will happen'

Some at the protest also cast doubt on Quebec's newly appointed transport minister, André Fortin, saying he will give in to Uber's demands as the deadline draws near. When asked if he had any thoughts about Uber on Wednesday, Fortin said, "Not yet."

"It's business as usual, we're losing on a daily basis," said Hassan Kattoul. 

"Nothing will happen — it's just free publicity for Uber."

Kattoul said if the pilot project isn't cancelled, taxi drivers deserve to be compensated for a loss of income and decreased value of their permits. He's also certain that an agreement will be struck.

Taxi drivers are hoping the Quebec government won't back down from its plan to impose stricter rules on Uber. (CBC)

"They are not leaving, they are not going anywhere," he said.

The protest also comes as taxi drivers recently lost another legal battle against Uber when the province's Superior Court rejected its demands to have Uber's operations declared illegal and its permit revoked.

Taxi companies, the union representing taxi drivers and other stakeholders argued former transport minister Laurent Lessard exceeded his authority when he signed a deal with the ride-hailing company in 2016.

With files from Lauren McCallum and the Canadian Press