Calgary Herald

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.

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