Uber intends to continue illegally until new rules take effect, councillor told

Coun. Diane Deans says the ride-hailing company told her it will not pause operations in the lead-up to new regulations, expected to take effect Sept. 30, should they get council approval Wednesday.

City council to vote Wednesday on new taxi and ride-hailing regulations

Uber plans to keep operating illegally in Ottawa ahead of proposed new regulations. (CBC)

Frustrated that Uber keeps flouting by-laws, some Ottawa city councillors hoped the ride-hailing company might offer an olive branch and cease operations for five months, but it won't.

City council is, after all, preparing to vote Wednesday on proposed new regulations that would allow companies like Uber to operate legally in the city.

So, after a marathon debate last week in which councillors grilled Uber's public policy manager and heard from dozens of people on the issue, Coun. Diane Deans asked the company to clarify if it plans to keep operating illegally in the lead-up to Sept. 30, when regulations are expected to come into force should they pass the vote.

The company told her it plans to keep drivers on the road, Deans said Tuesday.

She said Uber told her too many drivers and customers rely on it, but the company would try to meet the city's new regulations, which will be voted on tomorrow, sooner than the Sept. 30 implementation date.

Deans not surprised by Uber's answer

Deans wasn't altogether surprised by Uber's answer.

"It would be preferable if they would be willing to not break the law," said Deans. "I think that's something that would give some of my colleagues a lot of comfort."

Ottawa's council chamber was packed for a special meeting on proposed changes to taxi regulations on April 7, 2016. (Simon Gardner/CBC)
Several councillors at the debate last Thursday questioned whether they could trust Uber to follow any regulations council passes, considering the company hasn't been abiding by the current laws.

Uber drivers have been operating without required taxi licences since the company launched in Ottawa in October 2014. 

The city has laid nearly 200 charges against unlicensed Uber drivers since then, Deans said, yet many residents and visitors still want to use the service even though it is illegal.

The city will continue to enforce the current by-law until proposed regulations take effect, said Deans. Still, she said it will be an important step if the company becomes compliant with those rules ahead of time.