EDMONTON – Edmontonians – including city councillors and those in the industry – got their first look at the proposed vehicle-for-hire bylaw Thursday.
On Nov. 17, city council will debate the bylaw, but a report on the issue was published Nov. 12.
In the revised document, the city proposed a new fee structure that shifts the costs from ride-sharing drivers to ride-sharing companies.
Scroll down to read the full document.
“Let’s create something that will recognize the market’s changing, so they will likely be able to operate, but they still will have to provide appropriate insurance, appropriate licensing,” said Councillor Andrew Knack.
The taxi industry remains leery, citing concerns about safety for the public and drivers.
“It’s going to do nothing to stop the deregulation of the vehicle-for-hire bylaw,” said Pascal Ryffel, with the Alberta Taxi Group’s Driving for Equality campaign.
A rally is planned next Monday to take the issue to the provincial legislature.
“The purpose of governments, both provincial and municipal, is to protect the citizens,” said Ryffel. “We are going to talk to anybody who is willing to listen to us…This is an issue important to everyone. That it shouldn’t be pushed aside.”
Uber issued a statement in response to the report:
“Unfortunately, city staff’s proposed revisions to the bylaw would force Uber to shut down in Edmonton,” said Jean-Christophe de le rue.
“We are hopeful City Council will consider amendments that will keep ridesharing in the city as is desired by the vast majority of Edmontonians. We are starting a public awareness campaign on this issue asking local residents to reach out to their elected representatives to voice their support for expanded transportation options and smart regulatory solutions. Uber continues to work with the city to develop rules that permanently welcome ridesharing to the provincial capital.”
On Friday, Uber’s general manager for Alberta explained why the proposed law would force the company out of Edmonton.
“As it’s written, the fee structure is actually the most expensive in the entire world for ride-sharing. And as a result, it’s completely unsustainable to continue ridesharing in Edmonton,” said Ramit Kar.
He said the majority of Uber drivers are either part-time or seasonal.
“So if someone’s only going be driving for, let’s say, a month, and the fees that are being assessed are on a full two years, or $1,000, it literally breaks the business model.”
However, Kar said Uber hasn’t written off Alberta’s capital city just yet.
“I’m actually very confident that, with more time, we’ll be able to get to a good place on the fee structure, on the licensing process, and to ensure compliance. But as of right now, it’s really hasty.”
In April, the city attempted to stop Uber drivers from operating by seeking an injunction, but it was struck down.
Then, on Sept. 4, the city released a draft vehicle-for-hire bylaw that would allow technology-based companies like ride-sharing app Uber to operate legally in Edmonton.
But, Uber said the draft bylaw contained provisions that didn’t serve the interests of riders and drivers. A few days later, the company said that if amendments weren’t made, Uber would not be able to operate in Edmonton.
The proposed 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.
“This is a recognition from council I believe that the world is changing, technology is changing,”said Scott Mackie, Current Planning Branch Manager. “We need to adapt and ensure we’re keeping up with it.”
However, the United Cabbies Association of Edmonton said Sept. 4 was like “Black Friday” for the taxi industry.
“It’s a very sad day for the city taxi industry,” said president Balraj Manhas.
“The playing field is not fair at all.”
On Sept. 22, after a lengthy discussion at city hall, which involved an angry protest by Edmonton cab drivers, city council passed a motion to continue the discussion around the proposed vehicle-for-hire bylaw.
Local taxi drivers packed council chambers during the meeting and starting yelling and protesting when councillors discussed changes to the bylaw.
“Councillors talking to administration… every time asking them how they can fit Uber,” said a protester. “They are not concerned about this industry that has served them for the last 50 years. They are not concerned about any driver.”
“They want us to play the same game but there are different rules for Uber and different rules for the taxi industry,” added another man.
That day, council sent the bylaw back to administration to make amendments. Those details will be debated at a meeting on Nov. 17.
The city is requiring media be accredited to attend the Nov. 17 meeting.
Meanwhile, in Calgary, the Court of Queen’s Bench has agreed to hear an application for an injunction to temporarily stop drivers of private for-hire vehicles who use the Uber app offering rides for a fee. The city wants the court to ban Uber drivers until safety, insurance and regulatory requirements are met.
The court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published Nov. 12 and was updated Nov. 13 with an interview with Uber.
With a file from The Canadian Press