Parti Québécois MNA criticizes use of English in taxi bill hearings

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WATCH: American-based ride-sharing company, Lyft is hoping to launch in Quebec by the end of this year. Its senior managers appeared at public hearings in Quebec City to deregulate the taxi industry. But as Raquel Fletcher reports, one MNA is bothered by the fact part of this exchange took place in English – May 10, 2019

American-based ride-sharing company Lyft says it wants to launch in Quebec by the end of 2019. Senior managers from the company appeared on Friday morning at public hearings in Quebec City.

READ MORE: Uber, Lyft drivers go on strike to protest declining wages

The National Assembly is studying Bill 17, a bill that will overhaul and deregulate the taxi industry.  MNAs asked questions in both French and English about things like how Lyft accommodates passengers with physical disabilities and whether it would be open to sharing data live on its app.

When asked about data, Lyft senior manager Funsho Owolabi said he didn’t want the company’s secrets out in the open.

“I think for us, it goes without saying that we need to also protect our trade secrets from our competitors.”

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“We don’t want the recipe for the sauce for our poutine to be out there.”

Owolabi’s comment received laughs, but one politician — Parti Québécois MNA Joël Arseneau was not laughing.

The MNA for the Magdalen Islands criticized other politicians for asking questions in English to save time even though Owolabi, who does not speak French, made an effort in his opening remarks to speak the language.

There is no rule that prohibits English in the hearings, but Arseneau said he was uncomfortable. He said Bill 17 lays down the red carpet for foreign companies.

READ MORE: Quebec proposes new offer to help taxi drivers under Bill 17 — including extra fees for clients

The committee also heard from Quebec-based companies like the carpooling network, Netlift. Bill 17 would allow drivers to charge per passenger, instead of per ride.

Netlift founder and president Marc-Antoine Ducas said he thinks that will encourage more people to carpool, which will help with congestion.

“It will allow regular folks to turn their car that they have to use to go to work into a massive transit network,” Ducas said.

The public hearings are expected to wrap up on Monday.