Time for governments to act on ride-sharing: Uber GM

Ian Black, General Manager of Uber Canada, tells Tom Clark his ride sharing program has enormous benefits for cities and he is hopeful governments will see this new sharing economy as a worthwhile challenge.

Uber is here to stay, says the general manager of the Canadian branch of the popular ride-sharing service, but regulators need to adapt faster if cities are to reap the benefits.

In an interview with The West Block’s Tom Clark, Ian Black explained that his company is not unsympathetic to the challenges being faced by municipal governments and the taxi industry, both of whom have had to confront Uber’s rising popularity among Canadians, and the disruptions that has created.

“We certainly have sympathy for taxi drivers who work extremely hard and often for not much money,” Black said.

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“But we can’t confuse that with the issue that the taxi industry is a monopoly. And monopoly drives up prices for consumers, it drives down earnings for drivers, and it creates profits for the brokerages and the license holders.”

In some cities, taxi drivers have turned to violence and vandalism against Uber drivers to defend their traditional territories. Some drivers mortgage their homes and hand over their life savings for the taxi medallions that allow them to legally operate their cars. The mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, has vocally opposed the ride-sharing service.

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But in other jurisdictions, the municipal government has stepped in to find creative regulatory solutions, said Black.

Starting soon, Uber will need to have a minimum fare in Edmonton, for instance, and six cents per ride will go to the city. All Uber drivers will need to undergo background checks, obtain provincially-approved insurance and submit to annual vehicle inspections.

“Over 70 jurisdictions around the world have already regulated ride sharing, but Edmonton has been the first to do it in Canada,” Black explained. “So the model put forward by Edmonton is a very good one. It’s a very workable one.”

Uber’s future looks bright, he added, but any time a new actor breaks into an established industry, there will be growing pains. In this case, consumers are benefiting from increased access to rides and lower prices, Black argued, and cities could soon see a reduction in congestion with Uber’s carpooling option.

“What ride sharing is doing is introducing competition, and that can be disruptive, but ultimately it’s good for people.”

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