Quebec to re-open talks with Uber ahead of Saturday deadline

In this file photo, The Uber logo is seen in front of protesting taxi drivers at the courthouse Tuesday, February 2, 2016 in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced Thursday that his newly appointed transport minister, André Fortin, would be holding talks with the ride-hailing company Uber.

Last month, the company said it would cease operations in Quebec on Oct. 14 because it was unhappy with government regulations imposed on its drivers, calling them “challenging.”

Some of the contested regulations include submitting drivers to criminal background checks performed by police, rather than a private company, and increasing the hours of mandatory training from 20 hours to 35 hours — the same number of hours required for taxi drivers.

READ MORE: Uber announces it is planning to leave Quebec

Couillard insisted that re-opening negotiations with the company did not mean the province would give in to Uber’s demands.

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“We see the change the new modernity, the new way of doing things, but we also have [legislation] in Quebec that must be followed,” he added.

READ MORE: Uber leaving Quebec because Liberals block innovation: CAQ

Couillard also said that any negotiations with Uber, resulting in modifications to the current agreement, needed to take into account the impact on Quebec’s taxi industry.

“If there is some modification made with Uber, the same should apply to the cab drivers too,” he said.

READ MORE: A look at Uber’s controversial history in Quebec

Couillard even went so far as to promise compensation to cab drivers for devalued taxi permits.

“And let me also say, if there are — and it seems that there are — economic consequences for the cab drivers, we will compensate them.”

Taxi driver Hassan Katoua says that is just another line: “the government has lost its credibility a long time ago,” he told Global News.

READ MORE: The future of Quebec’s control over taxi industry

When Uber first entered the market in Quebec, it operated illegally outside the government-controlled permit system, thereby increasing the offer and diluting the value of the permits.

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For the last year, Uber has been operating legally under a pilot-project, the terms of which were under review when the company announced it would pull out of the province.

WATCH BELOW: Montreal taxi drivers protest Uber

— With files from the Canadian Press

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