Edmonton became the first Canadian city to legalize Uber and the UberX ridesharing service after a city council vote earlier this week. The move could be an example to other Canadian cities, including Toronto, which itself has already made moves to accept Uber. However, the council is still largely divided on ridesharing companies in Canada’s largest city, but Toronto Mayor John Tory praised Alberta’s capital for its historic vote.
“What we are trying to do here is exactly what they have done, which is to fashion a bylaw which achieves a balance,” Tory said. “They’ve come up with one answer to that in Edmonton, which we can learn from.”
The city of Toronto was the first to vote favorably for Uber, agreeing to create regulations for the company in October last year. However, regulations and changes to the law that will accommodate UberX have not yet been created, and the U.S. based company has compounded the issue by continuing to operate in Toronto even though the council asked it to halt operations in the city until regulations are created.
Tory said the challenge for the city is creating a bylaw and then having it passed through the council via a vote. There is still opposition to Uber in the Toronto City Council, with some members siding with the traditional taxi service in a confrontation that is continually looking like a pitch battle. Edmonton’s breakthrough this week could point Toronto in the direction it needs to go to accept Uber, with the Alberta city even getting Uber to comply to some rules.
Indeed, it seems Uber is willing to meet some stipulations if the company feels it is being accommodated by a municipality. For example, the San Francisco giant agreed with the city of Edmonton to stop operations in the area until it is legalized on March 1. It is a stark contrast to the Toronto situation, where Uber decided not to cease operating in the city while the council dallies over what to do next.
Tory has been critical of that stance, but he has voiced again that there is a way forward for the UberX service to be adopted in Toronto. Councillor Jim Karygiannis, a known supporter of the taxi service, is less enthused about Uber and says he is “very concerned” by Tory’s comments:
“I am surprised that the mayor this morning said that we should let council not decide, we should let the legal department decide if we have an injunction or not,” Karygiannis said. “I believe that it’s up to council to decide.”
Edmonton may have trailed a blaze and showed other Canadian cities a viable way to legalize Uber, but Toronto’s path to the same conclusion is expected to take longer. Indeed, a breakthrough may not come until the end of the year, which is when the Toronto licensing staff are expected to make recommendations on how the city could regulate Uber.