Quebec taxi industry seeks injunction against Uber

Quebec's taxi industry went to court Tuesday to seek a permanent injunction against Uber that is also aimed at deactivating the company's app throughout the province.

MONTREAL — Quebec’s taxi industry went to court Tuesday to seek a permanent injunction against Uber that is also aimed at deactivating the company’s app throughout the province.

Uber’s drivers are breaking the law and the company’s services are illegal, lawyer Marc-Antoine Cloutier told a news conference outside the Montreal courthouse.

The drivers don’t need a permit, as required by the law, he argued.

Benoit Jugand, a taxi-industry spokesman, urged the Quebec government to start cracking down on Uber.

“It’s not normal that the industry must take care of what’s supposed to be done by the government,” he said. “It’s simple: taxi is legal and Uber is illegal. The law says it. The law is clear. We simply want the law to be applied.”

Jugand and Cloutier both said Uber’s service has nothing in common with the practice of people giving their neighbours a lift into work free of charge.

“Ride-sharing is well-defined with the transportation law,” Jugand said. “It says you need to share transport but you just share your gas. But giving calls to somebody who’s taking you from point A to point B is clearly taxi business.”

A spokesman for Uber Canada said the “protectionist” suit is without merit and is aimed at preserving the “monopoly of the taxi industry to the detriment of consumers.”

“We believe that Quebecers deserve an alternative transportation option that is safe, reliable and affordable and that taxi and ride-sharing can complement each other to better serve the needs of users,” Jean-Christophe de Le Rue said in a statement.

Uber also argues that developing a mobile app that lets customers hail nearby cars makes it a technology company rather than a transportation firm.

The controversy surrounding Uber has raged across the country, with Edmonton city council approving a bylaw last week that would allow it and similar companies to operate legally.

The bylaw takes effect March 1 and includes two licences: one for firms called private transportation providers and the other for taxis.

In other Uber-related developments Tuesday:

— Ontario’s insurance regulator approved coverage for drivers using ride-hailing services such as Uber, even before the province’s legislature decides whether such services are legal. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says the new insurance offering is the first coverage of its kind in the country.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario gave Aviva Canada the green light to offer coverage for drivers carrying paying passengers in their own vehicles.

— And about 200 taxi drivers gathered on Parliament Hill to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to shut down Uber operations.

“They’re doing the work they do illegally,” said Ottawa driver Admassu Abebe.

“They’re destroying a legitimate business but also socially they are making all kinds of problems … I am hopeful that maybe the federal government, Justin Trudeau, might be able to advise provinces or municipalities to enforce the law.”