The ride-sharing company Uber has threatened to stop all ongoing operations in Quebec should the province enact new bylaws which require all Uber drivers to submit to 35 hours of “training”. According to the General Manager of Uber-Quebec, Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, this extended amount of training is too much for the more casual business.
The 35 hours of training requested by the government is similar in scope to other training programs mandated by other Quebec taxi companies. Uber, however, believes that this decision would impede the company’s main method of getting people to work as drivers. Unlike more traditional cab companies, Uber offers a second job whenever a potential driver has the time to operate. Uber believes that this training is an unnecessary barrier to access. It should be noted that currently Uber drivers are required to have 20 hours of training in before they can pick up a customer. However, that is all online.
Uber was originally established in Quebec after a deal made on September 16, 2016. Even then, however, Guillemette described the deal as one of the strictest in North America, pointing out that the company would respect any regulations that were in place, but that if they were too strict, the company would discontinue operations in Quebec. Mathieu Gaudreault, a spokesman for Quebec Transport Minister Laurent Lessard, said the government had not been advised of any decision by the company to cease operations.
The Pilot Project that established Uber in Quebec in late 2016 expires this year on October 14 and as a result, an agreement with the company and provincial government needs to come soon, or the company will most likely proceed with their predetermined actions. It can be seen as a bit of a warning sign, as any other province will likely take heed that making Uber employees receive the same amount of training as a regular cab driver is apparently grounds for their pulling out of the province. However, Quebec has vocalized one alternative to the additional training, which was already shot down; the Quebec government was to have local police forces conduct a criminal background check on drivers, as opposed to leaving it up to Uber as a company.
Co-leader of the Quebec Solidaire responded that he wasn’t surprised that Uber had shot down these attempts to find a common ground down. In an interview after a meeting with the Liberal Government he responded to questions of what the stance of the Quebecois government was by saying: “It’s nothing but blackmail. If Uber wants to leave Quebec, our reaction will be, ‘Good riddance,‘” truly reaffirming that the Quebec government is not going to budge on this issue.
As far as Uber’s willingness to stand their ground, it is somewhat unclear. While they have made it very clear that they do not believe the perceived severity of these new bylaws are fair, Quebec is a massive market for the company with a total population of 8.25 million. If Uber does decide to leave Quebec over these bylaws it will most likely not be an easy decision.
The ramifications of this issue will certainly be felt throughout all supported cities, states and provinces with Uber services currently running. Should Quebec pass the laws and Uber stays, it opens the door for other provincial governments to enact similar bylaws, further increasing security and reputability for Uber in their province. However should Uber leave it will be easy to see other provinces weigh the benefit of having Uber in their province versus stricter laws which better ensure the safety of residents.