Ottawa taxi drivers 'livid' after Uber legalization recommended

Ottawa taxi drivers say they can't understand why the city would consider completely changing its stance on Uber after spending almost a year and a half fighting the ride-hailing service.

Most Ottawa taxi licences valued at $300K before Uber arrived, taxi company says

Taxi driver Sobhi Fliti says the City of Ottawa has given drivers 'the runaround' since Uber arrived in the city in October 2014. ((CBC))

Ottawa taxi drivers are expressing their outrage that City of Ottawa staff are recommending legalizing Uber after the city spent nearly 18 months fighting the app-based ride-hailing service.

Since Uber arrived in Ottawa in October 2014, city bylaw staff have targeted dozens of Uber drivers in time-consuming and resource-intensive undercover stings in order to charge them for operating unlicensed taxi cabs.

On Thursday, Coun. Diane Deans said the city is "taking the handcuffs off" the taxi industry after a lengthy bylaw review.

Some taxi drivers are now accusing the city of giving them "the runaround."

"Why would they legalize something that hasn't been legal for the past ... years?" said taxi driver Sobhi Fliti.

"There's no point for paying all these fees for the past 10 years ... They took [our] money ... and they want us to keep our mouths shut. That's not fair," said Fliti, referencing the fees that taxi drivers pay to the city to operate.

Drivers' investment 'eroded dramatically'

Before Uber arrived, a typical taxi licence in Ottawa was valued at $300,000, according to Hanif Patni, president of Coventry Connections, which operates several taxi fleets in the city.

Patni said since Uber launched, the value of that licence has gone down, leaving drivers who used their life savings to buy one with an investment that has been "eroded dramatically."

"Of course drivers would be livid by that," said Patni.

He added he recognizes the city is trying to create a level playing field by reducing driver licence fees and eliminating the $1.50 service charge for debit and credit transactions in taxis.

But Patni said, "we don't think that's adequate and we are going to study that carefully and make some responses to the city."

Thursday's recommendations will be debated by councillors at a committee meeting next week, and, if approved, will move on to council on April 13. The new regulations could be in effect as soon as June 30.​


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