Quebec renews Uber’s operating permit for another year; tightens rules

By , on September 23, 2017


Transport Network Company (TNC) Uber on Monday was suspended for one month by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board. (Photo: Uber/Facebook)
Transport Network Company (TNC) Uber on Monday was suspended for one month by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board. (Photo: Uber/Facebook)

MONTREAL — Ride-hailing company Uber will be allowed to operate legally for another year in Quebec under more strict rules, Transport Minister Laurent Lessard said.

Lessard said Friday he’ll extend the pilot project under which Uber had been operating for the past 12 months, contingent on the company being subject to the same rules as traditional taxis regarding training and background checks.

Uber called the new rules “challenging” and said they threaten the company’s ability to continue offering its services to Quebecers.

Under the new rules, Uber driver background checks must be conducted by the police and no longer by private companies.

Additionally, Lessard said all Uber drivers will be required to undergo the same number of training hours as do drivers of traditional taxis, which is 35 hours.

Under the terms of the original pilot project, Uber drivers were only forced to take 20 hours of training.

“For the government, there cannot be two standards of security,” Lessard told reporters.

Uber spokesman Jean-Christophe de le Rue said the new regulations “favour old policies instead of incorporating the benefits of new technology.”

“Our team is still waiting to review the new regulations but based on our current understanding, these changes significantly threaten Uber’s ability to continue operating in Quebec,” he said.

Lessard said he understands that Uber considers the new rules to be an impediment to it succeeding in the Quebec market, but “we see it as basic conditions to ensure safety.”

The youth branch of the Liberal party criticized Lessard’s decision, calling the new rules “severe.”

“It’s a bad signal that Quebec is sending,” said Stephane Stril, the youth wing’s president, in a statement. “The Young Liberals believe the severe restrictions imposed by the government will have a harmful effect on Quebec’s reputation in the eyes of technology companies.”

The pilot project allowing Uber to legally operate in Quebec went into effect in October 2016 and included the possibility of a one-year renewal.

Lessard said while the government has decided to extend the project, the legislature will need to table a new law in 12 months to permit the company to continue operating. Part of the pilot project includes a provision allowing the government to collect a small sum from each Uber fare, which is dedicated to helping the traditional taxi industry modernize.

Lessard says the money collected from the program totalled about $7.2 million over the course of the pilot project’s first year.

He said the government will negotiate with the taxi industry over the next six months to come up with a compensation package for drivers and owners of taxi permits who have lost money since Uber entered the market.

The union representing taxi drivers said Friday the province “seemed to have badly measured the impact of its decisions. Our pretension is that the pilot project is illegal and that’s why we have taken our cause in front of the courts.”