Hundreds of taxi drivers protest Bill 17 in Quebec City

Click to play video: 'Quebec taxi bill hearings begin'
Quebec taxi bill hearings begin
WATCH: Public hearings are officially underway in Quebec City over the province’s controversial taxi bill. As Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, taxi drivers say the legislation will destroy the industry – Apr 10, 2019

Hundreds of taxi drivers converged on the Quebec National Assembly on Wednesday morning to protest the proposed deregulation of the taxi industry by Transport Minister François Bonnardel.

Bill 17 was tabled in March as a way to deregulate the taxi industry and get rid of expensive fees.

READ MORE: Thousands of protesting taxi drivers block traffic in downtown Montreal

It would allow drivers to charge a variable rate, similar to Uber and Lyft. It would also abolish taxi permits, which means the permits drivers have now would become obsolete.

WATCH: Thousands of protesting taxi drivers block traffic in Montreal

Click to play video: 'Thousands of protesting taxi drivers block traffic in Montreal'
Thousands of protesting taxi drivers block traffic in Montreal

Earlier this year, the Quebec government said it would give $500 million in compensation to taxi drivers —approximately $70,000 per permit holder.

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Taxi drivers argue they have paid astronomical sums for their licences — up to $200,000 in some cases — and are demanding better compensation.

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

They insist all of their permits were valued at a total of $1.3 billion before the arrival of Uber. A Transport Quebec impact analysis values them at $776 million now.

Bonnardel argues his bill unifies the status of all drivers and makes it easier for people to enter the industry.

WATCH (March 25, 2019): iCabbi invests in Montreal

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iCabbi invests in Montreal

“There are a lot of positive benefits, there are a lot of points that have been worked on to find an important balance between the vitality and sustainability of the traditional taxi industry and the new technologies,” he said.

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READ MORE: Legault government to invest $500 million in Quebec taxi industry

On Wednesday morning, industry representatives argued they are against the principle of the bill, which they say lowers the working conditions of all drivers to benefit Uber.

The Parti Québécois‘ official Opposition critic on transport, Joel Arseneau, argues services in the region would be affected by deregulation and that dynamic pricing, which would be authorized by the bill, would not be favourable to consumers.

“We’re against the ‘Uber-isation’ of the industry. We think the government is ill-informed,” he said.

WATCH (March 4, 2019): More water taxis on the way in Montreal

Click to play video: 'More water taxis on the way in Montreal'
More water taxis on the way in Montreal

The PQ is demanding that the results of pilot projects with Uber by the previous Liberal government be made public.

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READ MORE: Montreal taxi drivers say they need to save their industry from extinction

Under the bill, all drivers, whether they are in the traditional taxi industry or occasional users of an application like Uber, will have to meet the same standards:

  • a Class 5 licence, rather than the 4C class of current taxi drivers
  • a minimum training, the duration of which remains to be determined
  • successful completion of an examination
  • a clean criminal record check

The government aims to end exclusive, reserved territories and quotas for taxis, the registration number T reserved for taxis and annual inspections.

—With files from the Canadian Press

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