Uber to cease Que­bec op­er­a­tions in mid-Oc­to­ber if prov­ince doesn’t re­scind new rules

Truro Daily News - - CANADA -

The Que­bec gov­ern­ment is try­ing to im­pose a rigid and out­dated taxi model on Uber’s flex­i­ble way of do­ing busi­ness and if noth­ing changes, the ride-hail­ing com­pany will dis­ap­pear from the prov­ince’s roads by mid-Oc­to­ber, the com­pany warned Tues­day.

The prov­ince al­ready had the most “se­vere” rules reg­u­lat­ing the ride-hail­ing com­pany in Canada, Uber’s Que­bec gen­eral man­ager Jean-Ni­co­las Guillemett­e said.

Forc­ing all Uber driv­ers to un­dergo a manda­tory 35 hours of train­ing, as Trans­port Min­is­ter Lau­rent Les­sard an­nounced last week, will make it im­pos­si­ble for the San Fran­cisco-based com­pany to con­tinue its op­er­a­tions in Que­bec be­yond Oct. 14, Guillemett­e added.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of our driv­ers are part-time,” Guillemett­e told a Mon­treal news con­fer­ence.

Driv­ers of­ten test out the ser­vice for a few hours to see if it works for them. Forc­ing them to be trained for 35 hours be­fore they can try the Uber plat­form de­stroys the firm’s busi­ness model, he said.

“This is the beauty of the Uber plat­form — it’s the flex­i­bil­ity that the driver-part­ners have to come and go and de­cide when they want to drive,” Guillemett­e said.

Last year, Que­bec signed an agree­ment with Uber on a oneyear pilot project al­low­ing the com­pany to op­er­ate in the prov­ince - de­spite heavy op­po­si­tion from the tra­di­tional taxi in­dus­try. The agree­ment al­lowed for a one-year ex­ten­sion; af­ter that, the leg­is­la­ture would have to adopt a new law to per­mit the com­pany to con­tinue op­er­at­ing.

Taxi driv­ers have been in­censed with Uber ever since its en­try into the market be­cause for decades, the gov­ern­ment had lim­ited the num­ber of taxi per­mits in each city in the prov­ince.

The cost of each per­mit soared to six fig­ures, forc­ing own­ers to take out mort­gages to pur­chase them.

Uber by­passed that reg­u­la­tion and started of­fer­ing peo­ple rides with­out ob­tain­ing a costly per­mit. Due to lower over­head, they were able to un­der­cut the tra­di­tional taxi in­dus­try and cab­bies ar­gue the value of their per­mits have di­min­ished sig­nif­i­cantly as a re­sult.

Last week, Les­sard said the gov­ern­ment would be re­new­ing the agree­ment for the year, but told Uber it had to abide by manda­tory train­ing and background checks con­ducted by the po­lice as op­posed to a pri­vate com­pany.

Uber wasn’t op­posed to the background check changes, but Guillemett­e said the train­ing re­quire­ment was not pos­si­ble.

Guillemett­e said he hopes to come to an agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment or Uber will leave Que­bec by Oct. 14.

The num­ber of hours worked by an es­ti­mated 10,000 Uber driv­ers in Que­bec last year were equiv­a­lent to 3,000 full-time jobs in the prov­ince, he added.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment hasn’t re­sponded to Uber’s ul­ti­ma­tum.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a cospokesma­n for Que­bec’s fourth party, left-lean­ing Que­bec sol­idaire, called Guillemett­e’s po­si­tion, “black­mail.”

“If Uber wants to leave Que­bec, the re­ac­tion of Que­bec sol­idaire is ‘good rid­dance’,” said NadeauDubo­is, whose party is close to or­ga­nized labour.

CP PHOTO

Jean-Ni­co­las Guillemett­e, Uber Que­bec’s gen­eral man­ager, speaks at a news con­fer­ence in Mon­treal on Tues­day.

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