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Hundreds of taxi drivers protest Bill 17 in Quebec City

Hundreds of taxi drivers converged on the Quebec National Assembly on Wednesday morning to protest the proposed deregulation of the taxi industry by Transport Minister François Bonnardel.

Bill 17 was tabled in March as a way to deregulate the taxi industry and get rid of expensive fees.

It would allow drivers to charge a variable rate, similar to Uber and Lyft. It would also abolish taxi permits, which means the permits drivers have now would become obsolete.

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Earlier this year, the Quebec government said it would give $500 million in compensation to taxi drivers —approximately $70,000 per permit holder.

Taxi drivers argue they have paid astronomical sums for their licences — up to $200,000 in some cases — and are demanding better compensation.

They insist all of their permits were valued at a total of $1.3 billion before the arrival of Uber.

Bonnardel argues his bill unifies the status of all drivers and makes it easier for people to enter the industry.

“There are a lot of positive benefits, there are a lot of points that have been worked on to find an important balance between the vitality and sustainability of the traditional taxi industry and the new technologies,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, industry representatives argued they are against the principle of the bill, which they say lowers the working conditions of all drivers to benefit Uber.

The Parti Québécois‘ official Opposition critic on transport, Joel Arseneau, argues services in the region would be affected by deregulation and that dynamic pricing, which would be authorized by the bill, would not be favourable to consumers.

The PQ is demanding that the results of pilot projects with Uber by the previous Liberal government be made public.

Under the bill, all drivers, whether they are in the traditional taxi industry or occasional users of an application like Uber, will have to meet the same standards:

  • a Class 5 licence, rather than the 4C class of current taxi drivers
  • a minimum training, the duration of which remains to be determined
  • successful completion of an examination
  • a clean criminal record check

The government aims to end exclusive, reserved territories and quotas for taxis, the registration number T reserved for taxis and annual inspections.

—With files from the Canadian Press

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