April 1, 2019 2:58 pm
Updated: April 1, 2019 8:42 pm

Quebec taxi drivers call for independent study on proposed deregulation law

Taxi drivers take part in a one-day strike to protest new government regulations in Montreal on Monday, March 25, 2019.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
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Quebec taxi drivers came out bitterly disappointed following a meeting with officials from Quebec’s Transport Ministry on Monday in Montreal.

Abdallah Homsy, a representative for taxi drivers, said they were hoping to have open dialogue but their request for a two-week break from parliamentary work on Bill 17 was dismissed.

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READ MORE: Taxi drivers stage protests, take concerns over Bill 17 to province’s transport minister

“When you put 22,000 families in bankruptcy, and you know very well that’s what’s happening, and you’re not open to taking two weeks, there’s a problem,” he said on Monday night.

The taxi drivers also want the province’s transport ministry to do a study on the impact of the proposed deregulation, particularly on its social costs.

However, Homsy said there was simply no open dialogue at the meeting, which lasted several hours.

“They wanted to work on articles of law while the most important basis is the principle of this bill,” he said.

Transport Minister François Bonnardel announced in March the deregulation of the taxi industry. This includes abolishing a permit quota system, thus lowering the price of permits.

As part of the bill, the province is offering drivers and owners of taxis $250 million in compensation for a second consecutive year, but drivers say it doesn’t go far enough. Taxi drivers paid $200,000 for their taxi permits and some have more than one license.

WATCH (March 20, 2019): Quebec to inject $500 million into taxi industry

Last week, Bonnardel said that $500 million over two years in compensation was the final offer. Following backlash from drivers, he argued that they will be able to benefit from a lower administrative burden and that they may impose a “dynamic pricing” — which can vary.

“We come here to ask one thing: to make a serious, independent, transparent study, an impact study, the social costs and what happens,” said Homsy before he met with ministry officials.

The Legault government, he said, acted prematurely without fully measuring the economic and human consequences of the deregulating the taxi industry. “We’re not sure they have all the studies they need, they’re throwing numbers to the left and right,” Homsy said.

“If the premier or minister wants to negotiate, I invite him to negotiate first with Uber.”

Homsy also urged the government to be restrained with its word choice, describing the current situation as “critical.” Last week, a taxi driver tried to harm himself live on television.

“We need to be serious and transparent because there are lives at stake,” said Homsy.

READ MORE: Quebec taxi industry withdraws pressure tactics after driver hurts himself on live television

Following the meeting, Homsy did not address more pressure tactics.

“Certainly there will be reaction,” he said. “We will discuss with the base today and tomorrow, and we will see.”

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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