Uber says it will continue to operate in Quebec for now

Uber backs down on threat to leave Quebec
WATCH: Uber Quebec had threatened to pull out of the province by Saturday if the government didn't loosen restrictions on its drivers, but as Global’s Raquel Fletcher reports, the ride-hailing service said Friday it was willing to negotiate with the newly appointed transport minister.

Uber announced Friday it plans to keep operating in Quebec at least until 2018.

The ride-hailing service had threatened to leave the province as of Saturday, but said in a statement the arrival of a new transport minister signals an opportunity to find a solution to the stalemate with Quebec.

“With the recent appointment of Minister André Fortin at the Ministry of Transport, we recognize that there is an opportunity to establish a constructive dialogue aimed at finding a lasting solution for riders and drivers in Quebec,” Uber Quebec general manager Jean-Nicolas Guillemette said.

In late September, the province announced it would renew a pilot project agreement for one more year, but added new provisions that included 35 hours of mandatory training and criminal background checks performed by police, rather than a private company.

At the time, Uber called the new regulations “challenging,” arguing that the province’s requirements for 35 hours of training — the same number of hours required for taxi drivers — would destroy the firm’s business model of employing part-time and casual workers.

Story continues below advertisement

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

On Thursday, Premier Philippe Couillard said his government was willing to re-open talks with the company, but insisted the move didn’t mean the government would give in to Uber’s demands.

“The point is not for us to submit to a multi-national,” Couillard said, adding that any modifications to the rules would need to take into account the impact on taxi drivers in Quebec.

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

In a statement Friday morning, Quebec’s new transport minister reiterated the government’s position saying he had no intention of backing down on key points in discussions with Uber, despite minor modifications to the rules.

The modifications are as follows:

  • New Uber drivers who join after Oct. 15 — when the new pilot project comes into effect — will be required to have a background check performed by police within eight weeks of signing up.
  • Drivers registered on Oct. 14, or before, will be given a two-year delay, following the last criminal background check done by Uber.

Fortin indicated the government’s requirements are a matter of fairness and safety.

“Let’s be clear, this simple modification changes nothing in terms of Uber’s obligations,” he said. “It’s a question of fairness for all partners in the industry and to insure the safety of passengers.”

Story continues below advertisement

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

For its part, Uber said it is willing to negotiate.

“We’ve confirmed that the new training requirements that would impede our ability to operate do not have to be initiated for a few months, and we are committed to working with the government over this period,” Guillemette said.

— With files from the Canadian Press