Uber Campaign Pushes for Positive Regulations in Toronto

Toronto’s city licensing staff are gearing up to reveal its regulations that will be aimed at accommodating ride-sharing companies such as Uber. The U.S. company knows that for the most part it has customers on its side, so has started a PR campaign that is aimed at showing the city council that Torontonians want the service in their city.
On Tuesday the company launched an online petition which will be used to press councilors into supporting ride-sharing regulations. However, as other Canadian cities have shown, not any old regulations will suit Uber and the company is pushing for “smart” and “progressive” laws.

It is a make or break time for Uber in Toronto. The city voted last year to draw up regulations and amend bylaws to adopt ride-sharing services, but the city’s regulations could be ignored by Uber if the company does not agree with the changes. If that scenario unfolds then the company could leave Toronto entirely, as it has recently done in Calgary under similar circumstances.

The precedence for adopting Uber is in Edmonton, where the city drew up new regulations and the company agreed to them. Indeed, Uber would already be legal in the city if it was not for an auto insurance issue that has halted Uber’s legalization until the summer.

Toronto would face no such auto insurance problems as Aviva Canada recently debuted a new coverage that offers a simple and affordable policy for drivers of ride-sharing companies. The city is likely to mirror Edmonton’s regulations closely, which would mean vehicle checks, background checks for drivers, and Class 4 licenses for drivers.

Uber has not said specifically what it expects from the Toronto regulations, but the company has pointed out that it hopes the city makes it possible for the company to work in the city and is not merely closing the door.

Of the new media campaign and petition, Uber’s general manager for Canada, Ian Black, said that the UberX service aids in getting transport support to areas of the city that have been “previously ignored by transit and by traditional transportation options.”

“We’ve heard quite good feedback, we’ve heard that city council does have an appetite to move forward and create positive regulations.”

The big question is, would Uber pull out of Toronto if regulations are not what it expects? The company pulled out of Calgary, but has stuck around in other cities and has shown that it will support drivers even if they are unregulated and uninsured. Toronto is the most populated city in Canada, so Uber leaving would hurt the company, even if only from a marketing point of view.

Black says it is “too soon” to discuss whether the company would leave city, but perhaps it is worth asking if Toronto can afford to ignore the economic opportunities presented by the sharing industry?

London Planning Report on Uber

The city of London is the latest to have drawn battle lines between taxi drivers, local government, and U.S ride-sharing company Uber. City Hall has actually taken a novel approach to Uber and has decided to pass the buck to politicians with a list of options that lead to a number of eventualities, but result in either the company being legalized and regulated or kicked out of the city entirely.
Uber has been operating in London since it began moving across Southwestern Ontario during the end of 2015, and as always the company’s expansion has brought plenty of controversy along for the ride.

While the city is considering adopting Uber legally, it is actually still locked in a legal battle with the $40 billion valued giant. London has taken a front on approach to combating the company. Whereas other cities have just let Uber operate illegally without regulation, London is part of the group of municipalities that have actually turned police on Uber drivers.

The city has issued 36 fines to drivers, and the consequences have been high with legal tariffs of between $400 and $1000. However, Uber has defended its drivers and has stumped up for their fines, but despite this the company is positive about the report.

“We welcome the (report and) look forward to continuing to engage with city officials and council to modernize regulations to encourage innovation, put people first and create safe, reliable and affordable transportation options,” an Uber spokesperson wrote.

Uber has oft argued that it is a technology company that merely provides a platform (smartphone app) for passengers to connect with freelance drivers. This argument the company says means it is not a taxi service and therefore should not be regulated like one. Taxi unions have fought the company and Roger Caranci of the London Taxi Association said the city should protect the industry:

“The vast majority of rules are in place to protect consumers. We will not compromise any of those rules,” he said.

Uber Rival TappCar Launching March 14, and it’s Legal

A new company that emerged through Uber’s missed opportunity to operate legally in Edmonton says it will be launching on March 14. TappCar announced its presence last month as U.S. ride-sharing giant Uber pulled out of the Edmonton market while it awaits auto insurance clearance in the city.
The company said at the time that it hopes to fill the void left by Uber, while also taking some of the company’s passengers. While Uber has courted controversy with local municipalities and the traditional taxi industry, TappCar says it is different as it is a mix between a taxi and ride-sharing services.

“It will be very competitive with the Uber and the traditional taxi services,” TappCar’s Pascal Ryffel said last month. “We’re really hoping that people get behind us.”

Indeed, while TappCar is tiny compared to the $40 billion valued Uber, it perhaps offers a more appealing services, especially for authorities. The company works like Uber, using a smartphone application to connect passengers with freelance drivers. The difference, and likely to be key for regulators, is that the company requires its drivers to have both a Class 4 driver’s license and commercial auto insurance.

In this respect TappCar drivers are taxi drivers in all but name, and already the service is being promoted as a way for traditional cabbies to earn extra money.

“I think people are interested in our business model because it’s a local company that is following all the rules,” said TappCar spokesperson Pascal Ryffel.

Mohamed Sidahmed, a former Uber driver, said he has turned to TappCar because of the company’s legal position in Alberta.

“I see the difference that we had to do a criminal check and lots of training, and lots of safety,” he said.

Sidahmed pointed to Uber’s future, where its drivers will also need criminal checks and class 4 permits, which cost him a total of $150. While TappCar is appealing, Uber has a dedicated consumer-base and many consumers simply do not care that the company was operating unregulated in Edmonton and beyond.

While Uber has now left the city, it will likely be back and in a legal capacity during the summer, providing TappCar with huge competition. It is clear that the sharing market is kicking into gear, Uber will not have things all its own way, and Canada simply has to adopt the industry as it is coming either way.

Nova Scotia Latest to Consider Uber Regulations

Cities around Canada are warming to the idea that Uber can provide an economical boost, even though actually integrating and regulating the company has remained elusive nationwide. The latest to explore the prospect of Uber and other sharing companies such Airbnb, is Nova Scotia.
The word out of Halifax is that the province is ready to think about adopting Uber, although a review of the company and how it can be worked into current legislature will happen first. It is a stark contrast to Uber’s arrival in Canada, which was met with cities largely attempting to oust the U.S. ride-sharing provider. More recently, cities are considering the economic benefits of sharing companies and are looking for ways to work with them.

Nova Scotia describes Uber as a disruptive technology, but the province is considering whether to regulate the company or not. Tourism CEO Martha Stevens told the legislature committee this week that the government will first review the impact sharing companies will have on the economy. She stressed that while Uber is on the agenda, the province is putting the emphasis on Airbnb.

“Our work has just really started … and we don’t want to presume there will be further regulation,” said Stevens.

“It’s still only early days, but we want to make sure we’re doing the right things for visitors to Nova Scotia, but also for businesses that are operating here today.

“This is not going away, and we want to understand and enhance some of the new technologies because consumers are demanding it.”

Uber has struggled to reach terms with local governments around the country about how it should be regulated, and has been forced to leave some markets, while still operating illegally in others. Last month, Aviva Canada launched an auto insurance policy that covers ride-sharing operatives in Ontario, with expansion around the country likely during the coming months.

Uber Forced to Play Waiting Game in Edmonton

Uber has said it will pull out of Alberta on Tuesday if the provincial government does not help the company to become legal in Edmonton. The city voted to legalize the UberX service last month, but Uber has been able to meet the agreed criteria for legalization because Albertan authorities will not amend bylaws to accommodate the company.

The stipulations involved UberX drivers agreeing to specific licenses, vehicle checks, and to having a sufficient and legal auto insurance policy. The latter of those presented Uber with the biggest challenge, but the company says it found a private insurance company willing to offer a policy. It is though that Intact Insurance was the provider, finalizing a collaboration started with Uber late last year.

“The insurance policy that we have is a commercial policy that works for ride sharing and quite frankly, doesn’t add any material costs to drivers,” Ramit Kar, Uber Alberta’s general manager, said.

Alberta originally said that it could not guarantee that Uber would receive its auto insurance coverage for the March 1 date which Edmonton set for legalizing the company. The finance ministry in the province released a statement last week that said:

“The Superintendent of Insurance has been involved in constructive discussions with Intact insurance,” the statement said. “The issue remains under review and no agreement been reached.”

Now Alberta has put a firmer timeframe on when a bylaw to accommodate Uber will be ready, with Transportation Minister Brian Mason saying the province had rejected Uber’s request to have the bylaw ready for March.

“It’s our position that people driving vehicles for commercial purposes are not using their vehicles for the same purposes as those with a Class 5 license,” Mason said.

“The bottom line is that the Class 4 requirement is essential for the safety of both passengers and drivers.”
While Toronto voted to regulate Uber, the company continues to operate while Ontario’s largest city prepares those bylaws. It is unlikely the U.S. ride-sharing service will continue in Alberta and has already said it could pull out of the market this week. Even if the city amends bylaws, it is not clear Uber would accept the changes. In Calgary last week the company rejected accommodating bylaw changes and decided to pull out of the city.

Uber has requested that the city of Edmonton postpone its bylaw until June 1st, which is after the province says it will have prepared a bylaw. Edmonton authorities have yet to respond.

Uber Rival Wants to Pounce on Uber Edmonton Departure

Uber says it will be pulling out of the Alberta market after failing to get a bylaw amendment from the province that would allow the company to become legal in Edmonton. However, while the industry leading ride-sharing company is on the verge of leaving the province, another smaller firm is looking to steal some of Uber’s thunder.
A bylaw passed in Edmonton last month stated that UberX drivers would be legal if they had a bi-annual license, vehicle checks, and sufficient auto insurance. The company has since been unable to secure any of those things, with Alberta authorities saying any bylaw amendment is unlikely to happen until the summer.

As a response Uber is suggesting it will leave the province on Tuesday, Mar 1, which is when the Edmonton bylaw comes into effect. However, one company can benefit from Uber’s departure, with TappCar saying it is ready to take some of Uber’s Alberta market.

Like the UberX service, TappCar allows passengers to connect with freelance drivers via a smartphone application, and the company says it is positing itself for the lucrative Edmonton market.

“It will be very competitive with the Uber and the traditional taxi services,” TappCar’s Pascal Ryffel said. “We’re really hoping that people get behind us.”

It is unclear whether TappCar has the desired criteria to appease the city of the province, and the company is almost certainly going to be subject to the same bylaw rules as Uber.

Uber Forced to Pull Out of Calgary

Canadian provinces seem to be going one of two ways. Some are slowly starting to adopt Uber, while others are ramping up efforts to dismiss the ride-sharing service from their municipalities. Edmonton voted to legalize the service, Vancouver has managed to keep Uber from the city entirely, while Calgary became one of the few to kick Uber out this week.
Uber Calgary
The city voted on a new bylaw that Uber said would mean the company leaving the province if the law was enacted. The Calgary city council made the vote and the result of 14-1 in favor of the bylaw meant that Uber will keep its promise and will stop operating in the city.

Uber’s general manager for Alberta, Ramit Kar, called it a “really unfortunate day” and said drivers working for the company are the victims, confirming that the company simply cannot operate in the province anymore.

Coun. Evan Woolley was the only one to vote against the bylaw, and he says the city was very close to coming up with a workable solution that could have meant Uber becoming legal in the city. Instead a solution could not be worked, and Woolley states:

“I think the regulation changes and the new bylaw gets us 90 per cent there,” Woolley said Tuesday. “There were a couple of really critical touch points and I made attempts to amend the bylaw and deal with those and it didn’t pass.”

Woolley adds that Uber leaves the city because the bylaw simply places too many restrictions on ride-sharing services, but he said he will continue to press for an amendment to the bylaw. However, he also thinks the company will be willing to re-enter negotiations with the council and is unlikely to pull out of the market entirely.

“It doesn’t matter what bylaws we put in place, if drivers don’t sign up to be a driver or to use this system, it doesn’t matter,” Woolley said. “If the barriers are too great then people won’t join.”

Quebec Assembly Meets to Talk Uber

Quebec is the latest city to consider the legalization of Uber, or to at least try to find a path to move towards regulating sharing companies. Canada’s largest province has started hearings at the national assembly to discuss the future of the traditional taxi industry in the province in the face of competition from UberX as well as tackling ride-sharing companies in general.

No firm decisions are expected to be made, but still taxi drivers are going to protest the talks as they seek to fight against the Uber service that they deem as providing unfair competition.
Uber Quebec
Transport Minister Jacques Daoust has said that the province will have to consider the impact of Uber, but the company is inevitable in Quebec so regulations need to be found. As in other provinces, taxi drivers in Quebec are opposed to the arrival of Uber and are seeking a permanent injunction against the company.

Associations representing the traditional taxi service say Uber provides unfair competition as drivers do not need to go through expensive licensing processes like taxi drivers. Regulations could solve that, but Quebec has yet to even talk about changing current legislation to allow for ride sharing companies.

Uber’s defense has always been that it is a technology company and not a taxi service, so it should not be subject to the same regulations. However, that has not gone over well with Canadian authorities, and the U.S. based company will have to concede and allow itself to be regulated like a traditional taxi service.

That happened in Edmonton last month when the city voted to legalize the UberX service. As part of the arrangement, Uber agreed to a flat fare rate, licensing regulations for its drivers, and the stipulation that all UberX drivers must require sufficient auto insurance. That latter point is still a problem for Uber as Aviva Canada’s Ontario exclusive ride-sharing auto insurance policy is not available nationwide as yet.

Taxi protest called off on NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto

Taxi drivers planning to protest regarding the UberX ride-sharing service in Toronto have performed a U-Turn and decided to call off the protest. The movement was designed to disrupt the start of the NBA All-Star weekend on Friday, the first time the showpiece sporting event has ever been held outside of the USA.

The historic event gave taxi associations an ideal platform to highlight their fight against Uber, while disrupting the NBA weekend would have certainly sent a message to authorities, who are starting to play ball with Uber. However, Mayor John Tory spoke earlier in the week suggesting the protest would not get drivers the sympathy they want and that the picket should be called off.
Interestingly, the union organizing the protest has backed down and in an unprecedented move has even hinted that authority pressure may be the reason why the protest is called off.

“Emotions overran us … There will be no strike for the NBA All-Star weekend,” Paul Sekhon, of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association, said on Wednesday at Toronto city hall.

Toronto averted the protest after Sekhon and other taxi industry representatives spoke to city councilors Kristyn Wong-Tam, Janet Davis and Glenn De Baeremaeker, a meeting that clearly cooled tensions for now. However, unions are warning that the city must get its house in order and solve the problem with UberX, which operates illegally in Toronto.

Drivers say the service provides unfair competition because its freelance drivers do not have to go through the same costs and regulatory licensing as taxi operatives. Unions say if Toronto does not solve the Uber problem then another protest will inevitably follow after this weekend.

“We’re not saying we’re calling (the protest) off forever,” said Sam Moini, president of the Fleet Operators Association.

It certainly helped the situation that the councilors involved in the meeting are opposed to UberX, in its current unregulated state at least. They urged consumers in Toronto to avoid using the ride-sharing service that connects passengers with freelance drivers through a smartphone app.

De Baeremaeker said “If you love somebody, do not let them get into an Uber taxi,” while describing UberX as illegal, unsafe, and unfair.

Uber protest to hurt NBA All Star weekend in Toronto

The NBA All Star weekend is one of the biggest events on the American sporting calendar, and this year it will be held in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Historic is a good way to describe the February 12 to 14 sporting extravaganza as it is the first time the NBA All-Star is being held outside of the United States.

Canada, the province of Ontario, and the city of Toronto have a lot of pressure because of that fact, and it seems the weekend will face a sizeable obstacle in the form of a giant taxi driver protest.
NBA All Star
Unions representing taxi drivers disgruntled over the rise of the UberX ride-sharing service in the city are organizing a protest next weekend that could bring Toronto to a standstill. Representatives are furious that doors appear to be opening for U.S. based company Uber, which has been operating illegally in Toronto since 2014.

The company is now under consideration for regulation after a city council vote late last year and Aviva Canada’s ride-sharing auto insurance policy for ride-sharing companies has been approved by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). Taxi drivers are awaiting stricter rules against Uber and more protection for their own industry in the face of competition that they view as unfair.

An earlier protest in December brought downtown Toronto to a gridlock and the organizers of the NBA All-Star weekend protest say this new picket will be larger.

“We are going for a heavy duty strike much bigger than December 9th,” said Paul Sekhon, head of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association of the GTA.

While public transport will still ship the majority of fans to the event, the Toronto government is suitably worried by a protest that could bring large parts of the city, including the area around the Air Canada Centre, to a standstill. Mayor John Tory said the 2016 All-Star game could bring as much as $100 million to the city and he said police may be forced to “take whatever steps necessary” to make sure the event is successful.

“It doesn’t enhance the reputation of the taxi industry or their cause,” Tory said of a protest. “I really, really hope” the industry sees the city is moving as fast as it can.