20:52 8 avril 2016

Taxis rally against Couillard government

Taxis rally against Couillard government
Photo: Félix O.J. Fournier/TC Media

Upwards of 400 taxis gathered in Saint-Laurent’s Technopark and convoyed to the front of Premier Philippe Couillard’s downtown office on Friday to protest the government’s lack of Uber legislation. New law on the ride-hailing service was expected to be drafted at the end of March after public hearings wrapped.

The deadline has passed. It was March 31 so now we’re going to protest until we have a law. Plain and simple,” said Benoit Jugand, spokesperson for the United Steelworkers Union.

The sea of taxi workers who turned out to yet another protest remained peaceful, but vocal. Chants like “Uber illegal, Couillard coupable,” were heard and protestors took turns sending messages to Couillard through a megaphone in front of his office. “Mr. Couillard, you still have a chance to fix this,” one driver yelled.

The original itinerary was to the Montreal-Trudeau airport, but an injunction forced the taxi and limousine drivers to converge downtown instead. Another 150 taxis took part in a similar demonstration in Quebec City. Jugand said they have heard no word from Couillard on the issue.

Parti Quebecois MNA and official Opposition critic for transport, Martine Ouellet said that the Premier could at minimum suspend illegal transport while the law is being studied. “It’s not acceptable . . . on the terrain drivers continue to lose revenue,” she said at the Technopark.

We’re sitting on the stands—for two hours to get one call. I get depressed. A lot of guys, you’re looking at their face and they’re depressed,” said one taxi driver, Shahram Shawnfar, who has driven taxi for 17 years.

“[The government is] dragging—for what? I have a lot of friends whose families are concerned.” With a wife and two children, he sees the impact of financial loss from both Uber competition and a slow economy. Shawnfar estimates that he loses $60-70 per day since Uber started two years ago.

“We need action. We’ve been so patient waiting for the government to do something. We’re not sending a rocket to the moon. It’s very simple.” Shawnfar believes people need to see the families of cab drivers on the street to illustrate the effect of the issue.

Uber goes viral
Friday morning, Uber released a YouTube video to their customers with the subject line “While taxis protest, let’s support Uber!” In the video, Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, Quebec’s director general of Uber, said that taxis have not looked for solutions and are limiting consumer’s choice.

The company also released a Leger survey of 500 Montrealers that states 75 per cent of participants believe the government should regulate Uber to permit them to operate.