A Thursday special meeting of the community and services committee in Ottawa saw plenty of debate about the city’s recent decision to legalize and regulate Uber. The ride-sharing company and others like it will be adopted in Canada’s capital through a bylaw reform, and 100 people signed to the committee meeting to debate Uber’s position.
It is unclear whether the company would accept the regulations or not, but the city of Ottawa is working towards at least accepting the company. Uber Canada’s Chris Schafer was the first to speak at the debate, but he would not be drawn on what is arguably the most interesting question.
Will Uber stop operations in the city while the council prepares its bylaw change, and would the company pull out of the market if it does not accept the regulations. Schafer was non-committal in his response, leading Coun. Keith Egli to say “So, the short answer is no.”
Schafer would still not commit and added “We look forward to operating in a regulated environment.”
The community and protective services committee is taking into account the views of numerous people, from various sides of the Uber debate.
Under the new bylaws, drivers working for Uber or any other vehicle for hire will have to undergo a police record check and a check of their personal driving record. Only vehicles younger than 10 years old can be used as a vehicle for hire, while all such vehicles need a minimum auto insurance liability of $5 million, which is interestingly the amount Uber covers it drivers for.
Uber is classed as a private cab under the new bylaw and as such can only pick up passengers after pre-arranging through an app, and not by being hailed on the street. No cash payments will be allowed and Uber/drivers must pay a 10.5 cents charge for each fare, which they will also pay an annual license fee, the amount of which has not been revealed.
Taxi companies have reacted angrily to the bylaw reform and say the city is creating an unfair two-tier system that favors Uber. The industry has issued a list of nine demands that it thinks the city should adopt to make it a fairer market. One of them included Uber leaving Ottawa until the legislation for legalization is in place … the company is refusing.