Taxi drivers are planning a protest in Toronto this weekend to disrupt the NBA All-Star weekend that is happening in the city. If authorities in Toronto want to see how problematic a major taxi driver protest can be to the sporting event then the city should look to Montreal, where a major protest has caused chaos this week.
Of course, Toronto is not new to taxi drivers protesting against the UberX ridesharing process after a similar standoff in December. This time taxi associations are saying the protest will be bigger and has the potential to scupper the NBA showpiece game, which will be held outside the United States for the first time.
Hundreds of taxi drivers took to the streets of Montreal this past week, their stationary vehicles bringing the airport area of the city to a complete standstill. The mayor of Canada’s largest city, Denis Coderre, sided with the protestors and called for Uber to temporarily shut down its operations in Montreal. Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport was disrupted as passengers faced long wait for taxi services and highways leading to the airport were blocked. Cabbies were also seen to be aggressive towards other taxi drivers operating at the airport while the protest was in progress.
“We need a truce on the part of the taxi industry, and during that time, UberX must cease its activities,” the mayor said on Wednesday morning. “Let’s have a truce. We don’t want any excesses. We don’t want the worst to happen. It’s very emotional.”
Taxi operatives say Uber is providing unfair competition as it is operating unregulated and without the license and operation fees that burden the traditional taxi industry. The protest has drawn some criticism though, especially from the Montreal airport, which think it was unfairly targeted by the drivers:
“We’re disappointed that we were taken hostage by the taxi industry, since we are following all the rules,” said Christiane Beaulieu, a spokeswoman for Aéroports de Montréal. “We deplore that we were easy prey, and [the protesters] used us to make a point.”
Uber also spoke out against the protest, expressing disappointment that Mayor Coderre continues to support taxi drivers, while saying it continues to operate in the city.
“It is unfortunate to see that once again Mayor Coderre is seeking to protect the monopoly interests of the taxi industry while overlooking the majority of Montrealers who have made clear their desire for safe, reliable and affordable transportation options,” Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for the service, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“While taxi drivers are protesting, UberX drivers are on the road serving Quebeckers.”