Uber should be regulated like taxis, say Canadians in new poll

As Toronto narrowly averts a taxi strike on the NBA All-Star weekend, a new poll suggests Canadians feel the ride-sharing service should be regulated. However, they also think it should be allowed to operate — and those who have used it like it a lot.

The ride-sharing service is a hit among those who have used it

Canadians don't agree, a new poll suggests, but many think Uber needs to be regulated. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

A majority of Canadians believe the ride-sharing service Uber should be subject to the same regulations as taxis, a new poll suggests.

The survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute and published Friday, indicates 63 per cent of Canadians feel the government should regulate Uber the same way it regulates taxis, while just 37 per cent said that Uber should be allowed to continue operating without those regulations.

The poll comes shortly after taxi drivers in Toronto called off a strike that might have disrupted the NBA All-Star Game scheduled for this weekend. Taxi protests have also erupted in other parts of the country, most notably in Montreal this week.

Uber is currently barred in Vancouver, Canada's third largest city. But the poll suggests the vast majority of Canadians are open to Uber operating in their communities.

One-third of respondents said "yes, definitely" to Uber operating where they live, while another 40 per cent said "maybe, under the right circumstances." Only 17 per cent of Canadians surveyed said Uber should not be allowed to operate in their communities.

There were some regional variations: Quebecers were twice as likely as other Canadians to say Uber should not be allowed to operate in their communities.

This strong support for allowing Uber to operate within Canada with at least some regulations is driven by the positive opinion Canadians have of the service. The poll suggests 47 per cent of Canadians have a positive view of Uber, with just 30 per cent holding a negative view. Another 24 per cent said they did not know enough about the ride-sharing service to have an opinion.

Taxis jammed the lanes leading to the arrivals level at Montreal's Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau airport on Wednesday to protest the ride-sharing service. (Jay Turnbull / CBC)

The poll also gauged Canadians' views of Airbnb, a service that allows users to rent out rooms or their homes.

It found Canadians had much less familiarity with the service (62 per cent knew about it or had used it, compared with 93 per cent for Uber), but were more open to it not being regulated as hotels are. A majority,  57 per cent, thought regulation was unnecessary.

Familiarity breeds approval

The poll suggests support for allowing Uber to operate without the regulations applied to taxis increased as familiarity did: while 70 per cent of people who had only heard about Uber thought it should be regulated, that figure dropped to 56 per cent among those who were more familiar with it and to just 40 per cent among those who had used it.

A majority of Canadians who have used Uber said it shouldn't be regulated.

Users of Uber also demonstrated high levels of satisfaction, with 91 per cent saying that they had a very or mostly positive view of the ride-sharing service. Only 8 per cent of people who have used Uber said their view of it was negative.

About one-third of Canadians who knew about Uber but had never used it said they had a negative view of it, though 59 per cent of non-users with a high level of familiarity said their view of Uber was positive.

But what about taxis? A second poll by the Angus Reid Institute found that two-thirds of Canadians feel that "cab companies should step up their game to compete with Uber."

However, Uber doesn't get a free pass from Canadians either. A majority (57 per cent) agree they feel uncomfortable with Uber raising prices during peak hours, and a plurality say they worry that Uber "will make working conditions worse for their own drivers and for taxi drivers."

A complicated issue in the minds of Canadians, then, and not easily solved. But until municipal politicians figure it out, there is always the bus.

The polls by the Angus Reid Institute were conducted on January 27 and 31, 2016 and February 10 and 11, 2016, interviewing 1,503 and 1,505 Canadians, respectively, via the Internet. As the respondents were drawn from an online panel, a margin of error does not apply.


Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.