Insurance in B.C. is said to be among the most expensive in Canada. The lack of competition is touted as the reason.
Edmonton taxi drivers screamed, chanted and some stripped off their shirts during a contentious meeting of Edmonton city council on September 23, 2015.
At issue was a bylaw that would allow companies such as Uber to legally operate in the city.
Dozens of drivers in the audience began a noisy protest, prompting councillors to leave the chambers and call in the
The United Cabbies Association president then urged calm from the crowd and told taxi drivers in the gallery that there were still options after council’s discussion had ended.
The meeting continued, with some amendments brought forward including the possibility of having lower licence fees for Uber drivers, with Uber paying fees as well.
Afterwards, officials said taxi drivers would plan a meeting in the coming days to discuss their response to decisions made by council, adding that a taxi strike hasn’t been ruled out.
Back in early September, officials said the proposed vehicle-for-hire bylaw would include: allowing companies that have mobile app dispatch services to operate, standardizing requirements for vehicle-for-hire class to include a mandatory criminal record check, proper class of provincial licence, insurance and annual mechanical inspections, and standardizing fees for licences of all classes of vehicles for hire.
Later Tuesday afternoon, Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Alberta, issued a statement in response to the meeting.
“While some clauses would prevent ridesharing from continuing in Edmonton, Uber remains committed to working with staff and council to build trust and find a path forward.”
The first part of a new vehicle-for-hire bylaw is expected to go to a vote in November, with part two coming in the spring of 2016.
Canadians who love Uber love Uber a lot, praising the low fares, the ease of hailing a cab with an app, the ability to review drivers’ profiles and ratings before getting in a car and not having to carry cash to pay.
Yet not everybody loves how the San Francisco-based ride-sharing service is reshaping the transportation sector in the cities where it has set up shop. The UberX service empowers anyone over 21 with licence and a car in “excellent condition” to pick up passengers for money after a background check that can take just three days.
Obviously, licenced cab drivers, fearful of their livelihoods, have been the most vocal opponents, waging protests in cities ranging from Toronto and Montreal to São Paulo and Copenhagen, and launching a class action lawsuit over lost income. But it’s not just taxi drivers who are worried. Critics have a long list of concerns about how Uber does business, whether its practices are fair and whether it’s safe for consumers. The sweet deal passengers think they’re getting may be offset by potential risks down the road.
“The public is not fully aware of what’s happening and how they’re playing by their own rules,” says Jim Karygiannis, the Toronto city councillor who has been sounding the alarm about Uber since he was elected last year. “Can you be an Uber doctor, can you be an Uber teacher, an Uber chef or do Uber liquor delivery? You can’t make pizza in the back of your car and take it over to anybody who calls you. There are standards you’ve got to meet.”
A new survey by Harris Poll (on behalf of Toronto’s Beck Taxi, so take it with a grain of salt) found that among people who are familiar with UberX, most say it should be subjected to the same requirements as existing taxi services, including police background checks for drivers (87 per cent), commercial insurance that protects drivers (89 per cent) and riders (86 per cent) and regular vehicle maintenance (88 per cent). About 58 per cent of respondents familiar with UberX said the company currently meets these standards.
The lack of clarity about what Uber is, and what its obligations are, makes it difficult to point fingers and assign responsibility if problems arise. Is it a transportation company? A software company? A booking service? A sophisticated bulletin board? Are the UberX drivers employees or owner/operators? These questions are important because they have implications for insurance, taxation, security, safety standards and quality assurance. About 75 per cent of people surveyed in the Harris Poll viewed Uber as a taxi service more than as a technology company, ride-sharing company or mobile app provider.
Karygiannis suggests Uber benefits from all this fuzziness since it makes it hard for government to apply existing laws. The company has said drivers are responsible for collecting GST or HST, but Karygiannis says Uber does not ensure that happens.
“They have shown no respect for laws, rules and regulations, he wrote in an open letter this month, “and even if we ask for compliance, they will find ways to go around these requests.”
This alleged lawlessness has prompted Uber opponents in places like Sydney Australia, to try to make citizen’s arrests of Uber drivers, though police officers have shown little interest in getting involved. Of course, sometimes laws are bad and unnecessary, but in many cases they prevent harm from happening and when problems do happen, ensure that victims have proper recourse. “Sooner or later, there’s going to be a really bad incident and this is all going to unravel,” says John Papadakis, a Toronto paralegal and former city council candidate who thinks the city should be cracking down on ride sharing.
Although Uber has claimed that its Canadian drivers are covered by insurance, the company is currently negotiating with Intact, one of Canada’s largest auto insurance providers, to come up with a specific ride-sharing product. To critics, this move suggests that currently available insurance policies don’t cover what Uber is doing.
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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the city has sped up the taxi bylaw review and expects a full report to be available by the end of December.
Outside consultant KPMG is expected to review fare structures, and could recommend ways to regulate, rather than ban, Uber, which currently disregards Ottawa’s licensing and insurance regulations.
The Uber app allows passengers to book a ride, track it in real time on a GPS map and does away with the exchange of cash by requiring automatic credit card payment.
The City of Ottawa maintains that Uber is illegal, and continues to target drivers in time-consuming and resource-intensive undercover stings in order to charge them.
Since Uber began operating in Ottawa in October 2014, 142 charges have been laid against 64 drivers. So far, 56 drivers have pleaded guilty to 112 charges, with fines totaling nearly $40,000, according to the City of Ottawa.
Uber has been banned or pushed out of some Canadian cities but continues to compete with traditional, regulated cabs in others.
Here’s a roundup of the response to Uber across the country.
Kitchener-Waterloo became the first municipality in Ontario to propose regulating ride sharing services, like Uber. The new bylaw would require all Uber drivers to have a GPS and closed circuit television system, as well as commercial auto insurance policies for a minimum of $2 million to qualify for an auxiliary taxi driver licence.
A City of Toronto staff report up for debate today calls for a new licensing category that would allow ride-hailing services, such as Uber to operate, but taxi industry leaders continue to argue that would mean the “death of the industry.”
Under the new licence, Uber drivers would have to buy a permit, carry insurance, undergo a background check and ensure their vehicle is safe. The report also recommends that base taxi fares be dropped by $1 to $3.25 to make traditional cabs more competitive.
The City of Edmonton has plans to legalize Uber with new regulations — but Uber drivers say the move would drive them out of business due to high costs. Uber drivers say the cost of criminal record checks, vehicle inspections, licence applications and commercial insurance would be about $6,800 a year.
Public hearings were scheduled at Edmonton City Hall today as Uber drivers planned to hold a rally outside.
The taxi industry in Vancouver successfully fought the relaunch of Uber last year. Uber operated in Vancouver for about six months in 2012 but stopped operations after the provincial transportation regulator imposed a minimum fare of $75 per trip. Now taxi drivers there have launched their own eCab app that allows passengers to hail a cab and pay for it on their smartphone.
Uber was forced to stop operating after a brief time in Calgary in 2014. Calgary taxi companies joined other Canadian taxi companies in a campaign called Taxi Truths with the goal of detailing the differences between regulated and illegal cabs.
By CKOM CJWW
THE CANADIAN PRESS
SASKATOON _ A City of Saskatoon committee is hailing the province to regulate ride-sharing companies such as Uber.
The city transportation committee is recommending that council ask the Saskatchewan government to consider possible regulations and licensing.
Councillor Mairin Loewen says before the city can make any decisions about how to fairly deal with existing taxi companies and ride-sharing services there needs to be a provincial regulatory response.
Uber has been in Canada for about three years and is already available in Toronto and some other communities.
Edmonton is proposing a bylaw that would make Uber drivers carry commercial insurance.
By Laura Osman, CBC News
Uber and taxi drivers, now bitter adversaries, are going to battle at Edmonton city hall this week. But this time they have something in common.
Both the ride-share company and traditional cabs say the city’s plan to revise its regulations and make Uber legal would drive them out of town.
Licensing director Garry Dziwenka unveiled the plans Sept. 4, which would make Edmonton the first city in Canada to legalise the controversial company.
Dziwenka said the city’s goal was to make room for the new service while protecting traditional cabs.
In an effort to make sure Uber and other ride-share companies are safe, the city proposed rules that would require potential drivers to undergo criminal record checks, vehicle inspections, license applications and get commercial insurance.
That would set an Uber driver back approximately $6,800 a year. Uber spokesperson Xavier Van Chau called the proposal “unworkable,” given most drivers don’t work for them full-time.
Uber driver Eskinder just recently began picking up fares using the app to make some extra money on the weekends. CBC agreed not to use his last name because he could be fined by the city.
Eskinder said the expense would be too much to justify the few hours he works for Uber, and he has no intention of quitting his day job. He would have to stop.
“I don’t think I can afford paying all of this money,” he said. “I can’t keep this job like regular job. I work as a part time.”
Uber officials said many of their drivers would be in a similar situation.
Last week, in an email to its Edmonton clients, Uber wrote that “if amendments are not adopted Uber will be unable to continue operating in Edmonton.”
The company would like to see the burden of regulation fall on them, rather than individual drivers. Its business model depends on it.
READ MORE HERE: The big insurance question