Uber urges end to ‘patchwork’ of city regulations
As Uber Technologies Inc.’s future is debated city by city across Canada, the company says it’s time for the provinces to get involved to prevent a patchwork of municipal regulations that could raise costs for the company and its drivers.
Since the beginning of the year, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa have adopted regulations for ridesharing companies like Uber, with wildly different outcomes.
In Edmonton, the first Canadian city to legalize ride-sharing, Uber praised the regulations but had to temporarily cease operations in the city when the province wasn’t able to approve a new insurance product in time.
It was a different story in Calgary, where the city imposed costly rules, including $220 in annual licensing fees per driver. Uber called the regulations “unworkable” and said it would not be able to operate in the city.
More recently, Ottawa passed regulations that will allow Uber to operate legally as of Sept. 30. Uber called the rules “fair” and has said it will remain in the city.
Several other municipalities are in the process of wrapping their heads around the service and how it should be regulated in a way that will satisfy Uber and its users without infuriating the taxi industry too much.
It’s the Greater Toronto Area, however, that perhaps best underscores the piecemeal approach that governs Uber in Canada.
The company serves a huge swath of the GTA, from Burlington in the west to Newmarket in the north and Oshawa in the east. But it’s currently up to each individual municipality to decide how to regulate it.
Toronto’s city council is set to debate proposed regulations on May 3 and Mississauga, the second largest city in the GTA, will hash out its own rules the following day.
According to Ian Black, general manager of Uber Canada, this is why the provinces can no longer leave ride-sharing regulations up to individual cities.
“Rather than creating, in the GTA alone, a patchwork of 15 different ride-sharing regulations, just have a provincial framework,” Black said in an editorial board meeting with the Financial Post.
“In the GTA, 15 per cent of our trips are crossing a municipal boundary, and as soon as you impose different conditions and slightly different rules on each of those, it becomes very difficult for (our) model to hold together.”
The more individual regulations Uber has to comply with, the more expensive it is for the company and its drivers, Black said.
“Each of the incremental regulations, while they may be wellmeaning and while they may be in pursuit of a good goal, come with some cost,” he said.
“We run a business and at a certain point, as costs add up, our economic model no longer works.”
Black suggested it wouldn’t be hard for the provinces to adopt a series of “core regulations” on background checks, vehicle inspections and insurance that would make it easier for municipalities to write their own bylaws.
However, getting the provinces involved can also backfire. Quebec has said it plans to table legislation regulating Uber by mid-May, but has hinted it could require drivers to obtain taxi permits. If this happens, Uber has said it will leave the province.