Like most new innovations, Uber has been met with backlash, especially from taxi services and government policy. The Quebec government’s Bill 100, drafted to regulate and collect tax revenue from Uber, is one example of the increasing tension between the traditional regulated form of business, and online means of conducting business. Quebec government must recognize a new generation of consumers who prefer services at the click of a button and will not be easily dissuaded from using Uber.
The Quebec government’s outdated solution is exemplified by former Transport Minister Jacques Daoust, who thought Bill 100 would not be met with any opposition. It must have been a shock for Daoust to be called out by Jonathan Marleau, president of the youth wing of the Quebec Liberal Party. Marleau, like many of others, saw Bill 100 for what it was: An outdated government ploy to eliminate Uber. The government should instead respect the choice of a younger generation of consumers and seek a compromise with Uber, while allowing taxi companies to adapt and compete with the new service.
Understandably, the Quebec government must collect tax revenue from Uber. Yet the company has already presented a way to provide funds for tax revenue by charging each client a seven cent tax per ride. The government should agree to this type of compromise, and allow licensing of drivers and fare pricing to remain under the control of the business. Ultimately, Quebec policy-makers took a step forward by agreeing to negotiate a pilot project with Uber regarding tax revenue and regulation. However, the project’s future is still uncertain, as it has not yet been completed and may not meet its Sept. 8 deadline.
Montreal taxi drivers have clearly been on the losing side against Uber: They claim to have suffered a 30 per cent drop in customers since the advent of the ride-sharing app. No surprise, given Uber as a transportation service surpasses taxi companies in many ways. The online transaction is hassle-free, and the rates are often cheaper. The driver is familiar because each one has an online profile and can be rated for his or her quality. Additionally, more often than not, the drivers themselves can be far more friendly because service is emphasized in Uber’s business model. Taxi companies should take note of these service-oriented business practices and try to implement them, instead of lobbying for heavy regulation of Uber. They should demand a pilot project of their own in order to renegotiate the lessening of heavy government regulation that hinders their competition with Uber.
The beauty of Uber’s success is that it is a new, innovative way of thinking about urban transportation. Uber’s Global Mobility Policy Lead, Andrew Salzberg, explained in a CBC interview that the company is also looking into ride sharing as a more environmentally friendly and efficient mode of future city transport. Uber has demonstrated that the use of phones presents a revolutionary opportunity for getting around, and has set new standards for convenience and service.
The jury is still out on whether Montreal will be like Calgary, where tough policy drives Uber out, or like Toronto, which embraces Uber as an important new mode of transportation. Let us hope that Montreal chooses the latter.