By Michelle Bellefontaine, CBC News
Edmonton city councillors voted Wednesday to legalize the ride-hailing company Uber.
Uber will be allowed to legally operate in the city starting March 1, provided the company’s drivers are able to get legal commercial insurance approved by the province. That process is still underway.
Approval of the bylaw allows the city to crack down on drivers who do not comply with the law. City administration said Uber has made the commitment that it will cease operating when the bylaw comes into effect March 1, and will not resume operations until drivers can get the proper insurance.
The decision, which makes Edmonton the first city in Canada to legalize Uber, is certain to transform the taxi industry.
The council chamber was packed with drivers again Wednesday. However, unlike the day before, they were quiet and allowed councillors to go about their business without interruption.
Most of the drivers left before council voted on second and third reading of the bylaw.
On Tuesday afternoon, debate was interrupted when drivers opposed to Uber started loudly chanting “shame, shame” inside the council chamber.
It took police and peace officers an hour to clear the room before the meeting resumed with only councillors, city staff and the media present. Taxi and Uber drivers were not allowed back inside council chambers.
The public was allowed to attend this afternoon’s session, but the city council has made it clear that it will not tolerate any outbursts from the gallery. Mayor Don Iveson read a statement at the start of the afternoon session reminding people he had the authority to eject anyone who was disruptive.
Councillors agreed to set a minimum price of $3.25 a ride for Uber and taxis hailed through a smartphone app.
Council is expected to deal with a motion setting a maximum price on all rides to limit surge pricing.
Coun. Michael Oshry proposed a maximum of four times the regulated rate.
Iveson said the issue of how to identify Uber vehicles will also be discussed. The city wants vehicles to have decals to allow for bylaw enforcement. However, the decals can’t be so prominent that people will be able to hail Uber cars on the street.
Customers summon Uber drivers using an app on their smartphone.