Quebec transport minister to make sure Uber paying enough taxes

Hearings have begun in Quebec City over how the province will deal with the popular but controversial ride-sharing service UberX.

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Montreal’s taxi union is demanding the phone app be outlawed, while the province’s transport minister hinted Thursday that he may tolerate UberX so long as the company pays more taxes.

A small protest was held outside the National Assembly Thursday as the hearings got underway, with drivers using vehicles to block a street while honking horns or holding placards. It was a calm scene compared to a protest one day earlier in Montreal, where an UberX driver was pelted with snowballs and eggs, and had flour dumped on his yolk-covered windshield, while protesters distributed fliers calling UberX “savage capitalism.”

Taxi driver Hassan Kattoua, who was at the Montreal protest, told CTV News Channel UberX is undercutting taxis by flouting regulations, and he believes the government should ban it.

UberX connects people needing rides with nearby drivers who use personal vehicles and don’t have taxi licences, allowing them to operate at a lower cost than regulated taxis.

“We reached that point where there were people who want to throw more than eggs,” said Kattoua, who wore a sheriff’s badge during the interview.

Kattoua said he believes the hearings in Quebec City are biased and that the government is only holding them so they can collect taxes from Uber.

“The government’s maybe going to be recovering its loss but who’s going to pay for our losses?” he said.

Quebec Transport Minister Jacques Daoust, who took over the portfolio last month, said he wants to make sure Uber is paying taxes properly.

"When we're talking about 300,000 (monthly) transactions,” Daoust said at the hearing. “That's a lot of money that should be taxed.”

Benoit Jugand, an official with the Montreal taxi union RTAM, argued that Uber should not be given equal time to speak because its drivers do not follow current regulations.

RTAM has filed a request in court for an injunction to disable Uber’s phone applications, including UberX,.

The Parti Quebecois has so far sided with taxi drivers, even tabling a bill Transport Critic Martine Ouellet said will provide “tools to suspend the illegal activities.”

Uber Montreal’s General Manger Jean-Nicholas Guillemette said Thursday he is asking Quebec’s government to put in place a regulatory system that will “embrace technology and modernity.”

Guillemette said consumers are better served with more competition. “When you have more players, you push each other to the next level and this benefits society,” he said.

Uber is willing to start charging taxes on each ride to cover licenses for its drivers, according to Guillemette.

Earlier this month, Uber spokesperson Jean-Christophe La Rue told CTV Montreal the lawsuit threatened by Montreal’s taxi union is “without merit and aims at preserving the monopoly of the taxi industry at the detriment of consumers.”

La Rue said Uber was encouraged that Edmonton opted in January to become the first Canadian city to design regulations accommodating UberX.

The hearings are expected to take five days, ending in early march

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Maya Johnson and files from The Canadian Press


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