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Tempers flare as Uber and taxi drivers hold simultaneous rallies at Edmonton City Hall

EDMONTON – Local taxi drivers held a rally outside Edmonton’s City Hall Wednesday, but so did supporters of Uber.

The proposed vehicle for hire bylaw was before city council Wednesday afternoon.

Scroll down to follow along with Global’s Vinesh Pratap in our live blog

“I think that there is a will to change our approach to vehicle for hire, I think the bylaw signals a willingness to look at that,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “Where we’ll wind up on it, I think is going to depend on what we hear today and then on council’s debate.

“We’re looking for input today. This is democracy at its best,” Iveson added. “I just hope everybody is respectful.”

Uber called the draft byalw “progress” but said, without amendments, it “creates unnecessary red tape without improving safety.”

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Traditional taxi drivers held signs reading “level playing field”, “enforce taxi bylaws” and “Unregulated, unsafe, unfair, unacceptable.”

Tempers flared several times as the two sides clashed.

The rallies caused a large traffic jam on 100 Street and police were trying to keep things moving.

Taxi drivers rally at the same time as Uber supports on Sept. 16, 2015. Fletcher Kent, Global News
Uber supporters rally at the same time as taxi drivers, Sept. 16, 2015. Michel Boyer, Global News
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The new bylaw would essentially make Uber drivers much like existing taxi drivers. It would require Uber drivers to undergo a criminal record check, have their vehicle inspected yearly and acquire a licence from the city. They would also need a commercial insurance policy with appropriate liability coverage similar to that used by a taxi operator; personal insurance would not be adequate.

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City council will hear from a list of speakers on the proposed bylaw starting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

At last count, 244 speakers were registered to speak.

“What we’re hearing is that Uber is here and so far, generally, quite successful because there’s a real demand for them in the marketplace,” said Councillor Michael Walters. “Having 50,000 customers in nine months is not insignificant by any means.”

“Levelling the playing field could involve making things easier for brokers and cabbies as well,” said Iveson later on Wednesday. “Another example would be introducing price flexibility for example. Right now the price is fixed. some cab drivers have said we want the flexibility to be able to charge less, others have said we want the flexibility to charge more.”

Global News reporter Vinesh Pratap is at the meeting and tweeting from City Hall.

Follow our live updates in the blog below:

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