Uber applauds Ottawa's 'fair' proposal to legalize ride-hailing services

Uber Canada is calling Ottawa's proposal to legalize ride-hailing services "fair," and says the company is looking forward to working out some of the fine details with the municipality.

Licensed cab drivers, union condemn proposed changes

Ian Black, general manager of Uber Canada, says the city's proposal to regulate and legalize ride-hailing services is fair and could benefit traditional taxi drivers in the long term. (CBC)

Uber Canada is calling Ottawa's proposal to legalize ride-hailing services "fair," and says the company is looking forward to working out some of the fine details with the municipality.

"[The city's proposal] puts the interests of consumers first, which is really important in this instance," said Ian Black, general manager of Uber Canada, in an interview on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Friday.

"And as councillor [Diane] Deans said, it does in many ways take the handcuffs off the taxi industry, and offers many benefits, we think, to taxi drivers, but also creates competition within the industry."

In a report presented Thursday, the city recommends legalizing Uber and other app-based ride-hailing services like it. If passed:

  • Drivers of all vehicles for hire would have to undergo a police record check and provide a copy of their driving record. Record checks would need to be submitted annually for ride-hailing service drivers, and every three years for traditional taxi drivers.
  • Drivers wouldn't be allowed to operate vehicles older than 10 years.
  • A minimum of $5 million in liability insurance would be required for all vehicles for hire.
  • Private cabs such as Uber would only be able to offer pre-arranged rides through an app and would not be allowed to accept cash payments.
  • Private cabs such as Uber would also have to pay a 10-and-a-half-cent charge per ride, and an annual licence fee to help cover the cost of inspections and enforcement.
  • Traditional taxis could start offering pre-arranged reduced prices through an app, but metered fares would continue to be capped at a maximum rate.
  • Traditional taxi driver license fees would be reduced from $170 to $96 for standard cabs, and from $170 to no charge for accessible cabs.
  • Traditional taxi drivers would also no longer be required to undergo training, unless they are driving accessible vehicles.
  • Traditional taxi drivers would no longer have to charge customers a $1.50 service charge for debit and credit transactions.

The new rules, if passed, would "lower the burden" on the traditional taxi industry and ensure everyone operates "roughly in the same field," Black said.

"There are some details, fairly technical areas, that we do want to dig into with city staff and understand in the coming days, but on a broad level we think those areas that protect public safety are a good thing," he added.

Taxi drivers strongly opposed

Traditional taxi drivers in Ottawa have reacted strongly — and negatively — to the city's proposal.

"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 Sobhi Fliti, referencing the fees taxi drivers pay to the city to operate.

"There is nothing for taxi drivers. What did we do wrong to deserve this? Why would we want to accommodate a foreign company who's not paying a single cent to Ottawa's economy?" said Amrik Singh, president of Ottawa's taxi union, following the technical briefing at City Hall.

There is nothing for taxi drivers. What did we do wrong to deserve this?- Amrik Singh, taxi union president

Black said he understands those complaints, but he thinks the changes will benefit taxi drivers in the long run.

"I certainly recognize that any transition in an industry like this, especially one driven by technology, is tough and can be disruptive. And that certainly has consequences for people who have invested in a way of doing business that's more traditional or came before the new model," he said.

"But I think it is important ... to take the broader context into account, look at what's in the interest of the broader community of all consumers but also of drivers. And what we have seen as cities around the world have regulated ride-sharing, it does and can provide opportunity for drivers to then choose between platforms, to actually earn more money, potentially, using ride-sharing or other forms of transportation.

"There is certainly some short-term pain here and we recognize that, but we're hopeful that the industry overall will grow and that will help the entire driver population."

Listen to more of the interview here.


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