Montreal

Taxi drivers stage anti-UberX protest

Taxi drivers are holding demonstrations across the province to let the Couillard government know they want the taxi industry protected against ride-sharing services like UberX.

Taxi industry promises service, traffic will not be disrupted during province-wide protest

Montreal taxi drivers gathered at the Technoparc this morning and are convoying to the premier's office on Sherbooke Street at McGill College Avenue. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Taxi drivers are holding demonstrations across the province to let the Couillard government know they want the taxi industry protected against ride-sharing services like UberX.

The pressure tactic in the Montreal area, organized by three groups, began Tuesday morning.

"I am here to protect my bread and butter and my family," said Mihab Osman, who has driven a taxi in Montreal for the past 35 years. 

Hundreds of taxi drivers gathered at Montreal's Technoparc near the Victoria Bridge. Accompanied by police escorts, a parade of about 50 taxis is driving to the downtown office of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

The pressure tactic comes about a week after Couillard said he was open to legalizing UberX's services.

 The taxi drivers plan to drop off a letter asking for his official position on UberX​.

UberX is a car-sharing service where people can pay the driver for a ride. However, UberX does not pay the same fees to operate in the city or insurance costs as traditional taxi services.

The taxi industry says its 22,000 workers in Quebec need to be better protected and want tighter regulations for ride-sharing services like Uber. (CBC)

Big cities are struggling with the legality of the service, which allows drivers to work with little overhead costs and to undercut traditional cab fares.

No disruptions, industry promises

The organizations behind the protest — the Comité provincial de concertation et de développement de l'industrie du taxi (CPCDIT), the Regroupement des travailleurs autonomes Métallos (RTAM) and the Regroupement des intermédiaires de taxi de Québec (RITQ)  — said Tuesday's pressure tactic will not disrupt service or traffic, though fewer taxis may be available.

"This day of mobilization [is to] take place peacefully, without disrupting traffic or the clientele, while maintaining all adapted transport services," the statement said.

Meanwhile, the company Uber tried to use Tuesday's protest as an opportunity to attract more customers to its ride-sharing service by offering first-time riders free trips for the day and allowing its drivers to keep 100 per cent of all fares.

It also said it plans to continue its talks with the government.

"We believe the right path forward is to work collaboratively with government to develop regulations that embrace ride-sharing and we are pleased to see that Premier Couillard has shown openness towards innovation," said Uber spokesman Jean-Christophe De Le Rue.

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