Toronto, Ottawa Look to Legalize Uber

Two more Canadian cities are moving forward with plans to legalize – and regulate – Uber.

City staff in Toronto and Ottawa have developed draft regulations that would create a new set of rules for app-based ride hailing services.

On Friday, Ottawa City Council’s community and protective services committee voted to approve the new regulations. That means they’ll go before the entire city council for a vote on Wednesday.

If that passes, the new rules will go into effect in September. That would make Ottawa the second city in Canada to license and regulate Uber, after Edmonton.

Under the new rules, Uber and other “private transportation companies,” as the city describes them, will have to pay a license fee to operate in Ottawa. That fee caps out at just over $7,000 a year. There will also be $0.11-per-trip charge.

Both PTCs and their drivers will have to carry insurance. Companies like Uber will have to have $5 million in commercial liability and $5 million in non-owned automobile insurance. Drivers will have to obtain “suitable” insurance.

Drivers will also have to get annual criminal record checks and vehicle inspections. Companies like Uber would be required to provide proof of that to the city on a regular basis.

Taxi drivers say they don’t like the new rules and that they’ll continue protesting.

“What do I do now? Anything in my power. Anything which is under my legal rights,” Amrik Singh, the president of a taxi driver’s union in Ottawa told the CBC. “We will not allow anybody to beat us and then tell us don’t cry.”

Taxi drivers will get some breaks, though, under the new rules. They’ll pay a lower licensing fee, be able to offer discounts to people who book through an app or by phone and no longer have to go through a training program.

Similar rules are in the works in Toronto.

There, city staff have a prepared a list of recommendations to update the city’s taxi bylaws.

Like in Ottawa, they’ll create a separate class of license for Uber drivers.

The proposed Toronto rules would also allow taxi to offer discounts through an app or website; require Uber drivers to undergo background checks and annual vehicle inspections; introduce a license for Uber drivers that would cast $10 a year, with a $0.20 per-ride fee; and require them to have insurance.

There would also be a mandatory training program for Uber drivers.

Those rules, which won’t be voted on until early May, have the support of Toronto Mayor John Tory. But some city councillors have been particularly vocal in their opposition.

“We are allowing Uber to get away with murder,” Councillor Jim Karygiannis told CBC.

While some Ontario cities are loosening the rules for Uber, others are cracking down. On Friday, Niagara Regional Police charged 20 Uber drivers with offences under Ontario’s highway traffic act.

Business-to-business is becoming an increasingly large component of Uber’s business.

Uber for Business, which manages corporate travel for enterprises by providing a single dashboard for all employee trips and expenses, has signed on more than 50,000 companies across 58 countries in just one year, including the likes of Tesla, Evernote, and Morgan Stanley.

At Dreamforce in San Francisco, Uber this week announced the global rollout of Business Profiles, a new feature which allows users to switch seamlessly between their personal consumer account and their corporate account when hailing a ride.

With a Business Profile selected, users can include notes about the trip, an email of which is automatically sent to the company’s corporate Uber account. This means that logging in and out of accounts is longer necessary. Manually expensing individual receipts is also a thing of the past.

Uber, which operates in more than 300 cities worldwide, is currently valued at $50 billion. The company has had mixed success in Canada but is not giving up.