Uber is threatening to cease operations in Quebec next month if the province doesn’t back down on new, stricter rules regulating the ride-hailing service. Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, director general of Uber Quebec, said the service will shut down Oct. 14 if nothing changes.
On that date last year, the two sides agreed to a pilot project that allowed the ride-hailing company to operate. Quebec Transport Minister Laurent Lessard agreed to renew that pilot project last Friday, but with stricter conditions including a requirement that drivers undergo 35 hours of training, the same amount as traditional taxi drivers.
Guillemette said Tuesday Uber wasn’t consulted about the changes, which they consider to be major, and that the requirement is too much for drivers who only work part time. “What the [Transport] Ministry has announced is an attempt to impose old rules on a new technological model,” he told a news conference. Quebec is the only Canadian jurisdiction where Uber operates that requires drivers to do training, he said. Previously, they had to do 20 hours.
The government also wants Uber drivers to have criminal background checks done by police, instead of private companies that do them now, and have their cars inspected every 12 months. Guillemette insisted the company doesn’t want to negotiate through the media. He told reporters he wants Quebec to renew the original pilot project with the old training requirements, and resume negotiations afterward.
This isn’t the first time Uber has threatened to leave. Last year, Guillemette said if the government legislates the company as it legislates taxis, it would have to shut down.
Quebec premier not open to concessions
Speaking last Friday after the new rules were announced, Premier Philippe Couillard didn’t appear to be interested in negotiating with Uber. “If we this experiment continues, that’s fine. But if we’re asked to make more concessions, that is not realistic,” he said. Guy Chevrette, spokesperson for the Quebec taxi coalition, said Uber is pulling out of Quebec would mean more government interest in helping the traditional taxi industry modernize.
But he said he’s not ready to claim victory yet, pointing out it’s possible the company is using the threat of leaving as a bargaining chip. “All their profits were made illegally, and on the backs of people who legally, bought a very expensive permit that was devalued, I would say in some cases by 50 per cent,” he said.