Province of Quebec promises to compensate taxi industry for losses due to Uber
by Mike Beggs
The Province of Quebec has become the first jurisdiction in the world to commit to compensating taxi permit holders for their losses due to Uber.
And that’s encouraging news for Toronto operators, who have been requesting financial redress for a huge drop in driver revenues and plate values since Uber X first hit the streets here in 2013.
Transport Minister Andre Fortin made this groundbreaking announcement on December 15. A working group will now be established (made up of members of the cab industry and the province’s finance department) to determine the amount of the compensation and when the payout will begin. The Minister promised to have a policy in place by February. He also announced a $44- million program over five years to modernize the cab industry.
“We’re talking about a compensation package that has to be discussed with the taxi industry, to see how we can (best meet their needs),” he told the Montreal Gazette.
Permits are required to drive a taxi in La Belle Province, dating back decades. They are sold on the secondary market, and on sites like Craigslist, and Kijiji for upwards of $200,000. However, a recent Gazette article found Montreal permits had fallen off in value by as much as 18.9 per cent over the past year, due to the incursions of the app-based Uber X service.
Taxi drivers say they are at a disadvantage because Uber drivers do not require permits. And, they face higher operating costs.
Requests for compensation from Toronto operators have fallen on deaf ears at city hall, where Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) staff is months behind schedule on a one-year review of the new Vehicle-For-Hire Bylaw. They say the bylaw has tilted the playing field in favour of Uber -- belying the claims of Mayor John Tory.
“I find it rather refreshing that at least one government in our world is going to compensate, at least to some degree, for the disruption and financial loss Uber and like companies have caused the taxi industry,” says long-time owner/operator Gerry Manley.
“I never for a moment bought into the excuse that there are, at present, no laws allowing the City of Toronto, or the Province of Ontario to consider this path. They, at any time they wished, could enact legislation that would allow them to give compensation to our affected members.”
“I think it’s a reasonable thing to do (on the part of the Quebec government),” chips in former Toronto shift driver Peter McSherry. “They should have their property bought back at a good market price.”
“There’s somebody there who sees it right. We have a few people in Toronto that see it, but not enough to sway the Council.”
Independent Toronto Taxi Inc. president Mike Tranquada feels Quebec’s decision could have a ripple effect across other cities.
“I think it will stand out, (coming from) one of Canada’s biggest provinces,” he says. “And Vancouver, the same thing. Other cities might take notice.”
Veteran driver John Dufort disagrees.
“It will never happen,” he says, “when you get a story (in the Toronto Star, with MLS executive director) Tracey Cook saying Toronto has more important things to deal with than the taxi industry. And we’re the ones who give them the majority of their money for their cost recovery scheme. But we don’t rate.”
But long-time owner Andy Reti believes this could set a huge precedent.
“It only takes one to start a revolution, and then the others follow,” he comments. “I fervently hope Toronto will be the next.”
“This could be a big thing, if the Toronto taxi industry is finally willing to work together as a group.”
Manley deems the Quebec decision “a clear sign, that would ultimately strengthen a court case against the Province and the City of Toronto for (their) nefarious actions against our membership.”
McSherry concurs, “If the industry would get together, there would be an easy law suit. (Taxis are) wearing a plate that says owner on it, and have an individual number. But the City takes advantage of our disorganization.”