While members of the taxi industry continued to call on councillors who sit on the licensing and standards committee to scrap the staff-recommended reforms before them, Uber representatives quietly registered their own concerns.
While Uber Canada did not sign up to speak or answer questions at the meeting, as they have in other cities, public policy manager Chris Schafer sent a 13-page letter to committee members on Friday, which was posted online.
Uber’s rejection of several key parts of the newly proposed reforms creates a significant challenge for Mayor John Tory and those pushing to adopt the rules as written. Despite Tory’s call for a “level playing field,” those on both side of the debate remain unsatisfied.
“One too many seemingly innocuous pieces of regulatory red tape that don’t serve to advance a core pillar, such as public safety, risks putting ridesharing on life support,” he said.
Councilor Janet Davis said Uber is trying to skirt regulations meant to protect public safety and accountability.
“This is so typical of Uber. They want it their way, no other way. They ploughed into this market, they have ignored the rules and they’re trying to make up their own rules,” Davis said. “And they’re going to try to make the city even capitulate to the lowest standard and that is not acceptable.”
The items of concern include the requirement that all vehicles be no older than seven years; that vehicles undergo annual, provincially certified inspections; additional fees for drivers; and that Uber share its records with the city to ensure drivers are complying with the rules.
On the age of vehicles, Uber argued the city provision “unfairly” prevents drivers with cars that are eight to 10 years old — “vehicles in good working condition and with few kilometres” — from working for them.
Uber claimed to have a sufficient process in place to ensure the safety of vehicles, saying cars are already subjected to a 26-point inspection each year and that the provincial inspection proposed by the city is essentially overkill.
The city’s proposal to charge additional fees for drivers is an unnecessary burden, Uber said, requesting it be charged directly to the company instead.
“Separate requirements on drivers deter people who only want to drive a few hours each week and will benefit from this kind of flexible work,” Schafer wrote.
And Uber raised privacy concerns for drivers in sharing data with the city, meant to give licensing staff oversight. Schafer said staff and Uber should work to “develop a data sharing arrangement that allows for us to be a constructive partner with the city to help it use data to accomplish discrete and defined goals.”
While Uber was happy with regulations passed by Edmonton city council, they rejected stricter rules from Calgary, including on inspections and fees, and refused to operate there. They’re currently not operating in either city as the province of Alberta looks to increase safety and insurance provisions.
It was not immediately clear whether the mayor’s office would comment on Uber’s concerns. Tory, who has said he is unhappy with how Uber broke into the market but that the city needed to find a way to work with them, is currently in Japan on a business mission.
Author: Jennifer Pagliaro