Uber threatens to pull out of Edmonton unless proposed bylaw is amended

WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton’s proposed vehicle for hire bylaw has both taxi drivers and Uber reacting. Here what all sides have to say.

EDMONTON — Ridesharing app Uber is threatening to leave Edmonton unless amendments are made to the city’s proposed vehicle-for-hire bylaw.

The “draft bylaw is an important step forward but the proposed regulation contains provisions that do not serve the interests of riders and drivers,” said Uber Canada spokesperson Jean-Christophe de Le Rue.

“If amendments are not adopted, Uber will be unable to continue operating in Edmonton.”

In an email to its drivers, Uber encouraged them to fill out the Edmonton Insight Community survey on the draft bylaw by the end of the day Thursday.

“Given that various groups have expressed concern, we suggest that more time is needed for a staff review,” added de Le Rue. “The City of Toronto released yesterday its report on ridesharing regulations, which provided a Canadian framework for including ridesharing in regulations.”

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Toronto’s multi-step plan includes issuing 100 new taxi licences to the drivers on a waiting list, amending bylaw definitions of taxicab, taxicab brokerage and limousine service company to capture ridesharing companies in the regulations, asking the province to confirm that Uber has adequate insurance coverage for its drivers.

“We encourage businesses to come into Edmonton and prosper in Edmonton but they must follow the laws that are in place,” said Garry Dziwenka, the city’s director of licensing and vehicle for hire.

“Whether Uber leaves Edmonton or not, that’s up to their business practices. That would be something they would make based on their policies.”

Dziwenka is encouraging everyone – the public and industry – to share their thoughts on the proposed bylaw through the online survey (which closes 11:59 p.m. Thursday) or in person on Sept. 16.

READ MORE: Edmonton cabbies fighting Uber legalization 

On Wednesday night, around 800 people from the city’s taxi industry gathered in south Edmonton to discuss the proposed bylaw.

Last week the city announced the draft bylaw, which would require Uber drivers to have proper insurance, a city licence, undergo a criminal record check and a yearly vehicle inspection. Essentially, the bylaw would turn Uber drivers into taxi drivers.

READ MORE: Proposed bylaw would allow Uber to operate legally in Edmonton 

The United Cabbies Association of Edmonton said the bylaw threatens traditional taxi drivers’ livelihood.

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“There will be a flooding of taxis in the city,” said president Balraj Manhas. “This market will be open for everybody, and there will be no full-time jobs.”

The association has hired a lobby group called Alberta Counsel Ltd. Lawyer Shayne Saskiw, former Wildrose MLA turned lobbyist, is helping the taxi drivers make their case.

“The main concern here is there seems to be two sets of rules,” said Saskiw, who wants to see all laws enforced regularly.

“(The taxi drivers) want to ensure that there’s a fair playing field; that if you’re going to be involved in commercial driving, there should be rules for everybody and everyone abides by the same rules.”

The taxi drivers are not afraid to take action, even if that means going on strike.

“Whatever it takes to stop it, we will take that,” said Manhas.

The proposed bylaw will go before Edmonton City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

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