Metro Morning

'Legalize Uber' says former Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak

What to do about Uber? Tim Hudak, the former leader of Ontario's Tories, says he has a solution.

The former leader of Ontario's Tories has a solution to the Uber question

Former Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak wants the province to make some changes in the way it deals with the taxi industry. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

What to do about Uber? Can it co-exist with the taxi industry? Does it need to be regulated? Does it need to go away?

Tim Hudak, MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook and the former leader of the Ontario PC party, says he has a solution.

He introduced a private members bill he's calling Opportunity in the Sharing Economy. Hudak told Metro Morning that he studied other jurisdictions and industries and his solution has support across the political spectrum.

"It reminds a bit of old battle between Napster and the music industry. We have to adapt," he said. "Technology is actually a good thing. No doubt transitions are not easy but we have to get through this."

Hudak said he sympathizes with taxi drivers but believes it's important to differentiate the drivers from the taxi operators, whom Hudak suggested may be in Florida because they are so wealthy from the system.

But taxi industry operators are not the target of many drivers ire. Tempers flared during yesterday's citywide anti-Uber demonstration with many people saying the protesting cabbies were driving people toward Uber, not away from it.

The protests got particularly tense when one demonstrator pounded on the window of a car being driven by an UberX driver, and then clung to the side of the car as it tried to drive away. A complicating factor in that incident: the man who clung to the car was actually a former Uber driver, too.

"It was sad, it was ugly," Hudak said. "I worry it's going to escalate." 

Hudak said he wants to level the playing field for drivers.

"Let's level up, not down. As opposed to making Uber more like the cab industry, let's make the cab industry more like Uber," said Hudak.

He warned that taxpayers bailing cab drivers out isn't the way forward.

"I think the way forward is to legalize Uber, and then return for a license to say, 'OK, you need these basic things,'" he said, which includes insurance.

The second part of the bill dictates less regulation for taxis so existing companies can compete as well.

He said if companies like Uber or AirBnb, or more local companies, waited for government approval they wouldn't exist based on the pace of government. "I think we need to get some pressure," he said of updating laws around taxis.

Hudak's overall message is that Uber is not going away. The province, he said, should acknowledge that.

"At the end of the day, consumers are speaking quite clearly by using their smartphones as opposed to hailing cabs. I think we have a duty and obligation to make sure allow for that — but under certain consumer protection standards like full insurance," he said.