Taxi drivers file for injunction to stop Uber
Quebec's taxi industry has filed for an injunction to have the Uber car service banned from operating in the province.
About 4,000 of the province's 22,000 taxi drivers belong to the Steelworkers Union, and they say the service violates provincial laws requiring drivers who carry paying passengers to have vehicle permits, special licenses, and insurance.
The drivers are asking the court to shut down the use of the Uber app while the matter is dealt with in court, saying that the continued operations of Uber have a direct financial impact on all taxi and limousine drivers in the province.
Benoit Jugand of the union said the government should enforce its own laws.
"It's not normal that the industry must take care of what's supposed to be done by the government," said Jugand
"It's simple. Taxis are legal and Uber is illegal. The law says it and we simply want the laws to be applied."
Their principle argument is against UberX, where anyone with a driver's license can pick up and transport passengers for a fee.
Lawyer Marc-Antoine Cloutier said Uber's choice of language in calling itself a "ridesharing service" is a deliberate attempt to skirt the law and confuse the public.
"This is nothing at all like getting a ride from a neighbour or friend and sharing the cost of gas," wrote Cloutier.
Jugand said ridesharing is specifically defined in law.
"It says that you need to share a transport but you just share your gas. Giving some calls to somebody to take you from Point A to Point B is clearly some taxi business, and there are some rules about the taxi industry," said Jugand.
Uber argues it is different from a traditional taxi service.
Spokesperson Jean-Christophe La Rue said Uber is willing to work under government regulations if they are changed, but says that current provincial laws have created a "monopoly of the taxi industry."
Across North America governments have taken a mixed approach to dealing with Uber, Lyft, and similar app-based transportation services.
The city of Edmonton recently regulated Uber drivers, and as of March 1 all drivers in that city will be required to have commercial insurance or the equivalent. Uber will also have to pay Edmonton six cents per ride, and to share all data about passengers and rides with the city.
In other jurisdictions Uber is being taken to court because it treats employees as contractors, and does not pay into workers compensation, employment insurance and other government-mandated benefits.
Responding to critics who say Uber and similar services are just responding to a customer's desire for ease of use, Jugand added that taxi drivers are doing just that.
"We've been asked from the government to modernize the industry. We're doing that. We met with the government on July 8," said Jugand.
He then said the government has sat on the dozens of reports filed and not done anything since.