Uber to announce it's leaving Quebec due to stricter government rules

Just days after the company warned it may leave the province, Radio-Canada has confirmed Uber intends to cease operations in Quebec.

Last week, an Uber statement said “new and challenging” proposed provincial regulations “significantly threaten” the company’s ability to continue operating.

Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, director general of Uber Quebec, is expected to make the announcement at an 11 a.m. ET news conference today in Montreal.

This isn’t the first time Uber has threatened to leave. Last year, Guillemette said if the government legislates the company as it legislates taxis, it would have to shut down.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, the government implemented a pilot project that allowed Uber to operate for one year.

On Friday, Transport Minister Laurent Lessard agreed to renew that pilot project, but with stricter conditions, including a requirement that drivers undergo 35 hours of training, 15 more than the previous requirement.

Traditional taxi drivers undergo 35 hours of training.

The government also wants Uber drivers to have criminal background checks done by police, instead of private companies that do them now, and have their cars inspected every 12 months.

The original pilot project was slated to end Oct. 14.

Taxi drivers unhappy with Uber

Guy Chevrette, spokesperson for the Quebec taxi coalition, said the news Uber is pulling out of Quebec would mean more government interest in helping the traditional taxi industry modernize.

But he said he’s not ready to claim victory yet, pointing out it’s possible the company is using the threat of leaving as a bargaining chip.

“All their profits were made illegally, and on the backs of people who legally, bought a very expensive permit that was devalued, I would say in some cases by 50 per cent,” he said.

Since UberX, which allows non-professional drivers to shuttle passengers around in their own personal cars, arrived in Montreal in 2014, the service has been met with opposition from politicians and taxi drivers alike.

But the conflict ramped up in earnest last year, as the taxi industry increased its efforts to force the province to act.

Quebec’s taxi drivers have been vocal against Uber, saying the government’s agreement to even have a pilot project amounts to a betrayal.

They blame Uber for what they say is the decreasing value of their taxi permits, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

They have held protests in Montreal, using their cars to block busy city streets.

This year’s federal budget included what has been called an Uber tax — starting July 1, Uber has had to charge passengers GST/HST on ride-hailing fares.

London’s transport regulator on Friday stripped Uber of its licence to operate, affecting over 40,000 drivers in a huge blow to the taxi app. The company is appealing that decision

In the U.K. city, Uber has faced criticism from unions, lawmakers and traditional black cab drivers over working conditions.

‘A big, big storm’

Mathieu Visser is a full-time Uber driver, and is convinced the company has improved Montrealers’ quality of life.

He said the option of taking an Uber has prompted people to ditch their cars and helped them cut costs.

Uber-Taxi

Uber Quebec says if the government doesn’t back down on its requirement to have drivers undergo 35 hours of training, it will have to cease operations in the province. (Reuters)

As far as Visser is concerned, the requirement to do 35 hours of training is too strict, and he doesn’t think he and his fellow drivers need it.

“In two years and a half, we’ve had so many storms inside this battle. This might be a big, big storm. Maybe it’s the last one, maybe it’s the end. I don’t know.”

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