Even as autumn settles in across Canada, temperatures are rising over the Uber issue, with threats flying back and forth faster than a speeding … well, taxicab. And you know what? Both the cabbies and the Uber folk are acting like real assholes.
Newly re-elected mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi may be dealing with another tough talking group of thugs/businessmen threatening to pull out of his city if he doesn’t bend over backwards to support them (the Flames), but two years ago, it was Uber.
As per their modus operandi, the ride-sharing company first came to the city unannounced and illegally in 2015, aiming to gain public support before city council could set up a regulatory framework. In Calgary’s case, when later that year said regulations were put in place to allow for ride-sharing, Uber sniffed, saying they didn’t like them too much and so they split. Only to come back a year later. No wonder Nenshi called them dicks.
The same scenario was just played out in Quebec with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre responding to Uber’s threat to leave the province if it tries to regulate the industry, saying with aplomb, “Frankly, we need to have some regulation, and if they threat[en] to leave, I don’t care.”
The result? Uber backed down.
It’s not a Canada-specific problem, either. The mayor of London, England, has been spitting nails about the company, saying that Uber doesn’t play by the rules. “I appreciate Uber has an army of PR experts,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan. “I appreciate Uber has an army of lawyers. They’ve also made aggressive threats about taking us to court and all the rest of it.”
Okay, great, so what about the other guys? Edmontonians remember the scene a couple of years ago when angry, shirtless taxi drivers barged into city council one evening, demanding that Uber be kicked out of the city and that somebody buy them a pizza. But that was just frat house fun, right?
So what about what just happened, allegedly, in Winnipeg, where Mayor Brian Bowman called out one taxi-industry representative for pulling him aside and threatening him during a weekend photo-op. The province is currently mulling over whether to regulate and allow for ride-sharing, and on that topic: “There were comments he whispered to me afterwards which I perceived as a threat,” Bowman said about taxi lobbyist Ajay Chopra. “It’s unclear to me whether this was a physical threat or a political threat, but it was certainly unwelcomed.”
It’s not only in whispered asides, though. Here is BC’s Blacktop and Checker Cabs president Amrik Mahil speaking to the provincial NDP’s recent election win and addressing the issue of upcoming legislation on ride-sharing. “Quite clearly, about four seats are attributed to the taxi industry and trucking,” Mahil said. “They know what will happen to them next time. They won’t form a government and they know that.”
That my friends is the sound of a small special interest group controlling the mobility of an entire population The result? The worst taxi system of any major city in the country. Cantech Letter editor Nick Waddell tweeted this stark image upon returning from Toronto recently.
So, Uber plays games with municipalities and whole provinces while taxi drivers threaten governments and, allegedly, politicians themselves.
Where can a guy catch a bus around here?