After a very tough meeting on Tuesday (see the protesters below), cooler heads prevailed on Wednesday when the Edmonton city councilors voted to legalize Uber - the first Canadian municipality to do so, although Uber already operates in many areas in Canada. Starting March 1, the ride-hailing service will become legal provided the company's drivers purchase legal commercial insurance approved by the providence - which is only fair since the taxi drivers must also be insured. Uber has already been operating in Edmonton, but these new bylaws will legalize Uber itself, but will also allow the city to crack down on drivers that do not comply with the law. Uber said they will cease operations March 1 and not resume until drivers get the proper insurance.
The council also set a $3.25 minimum rate for Uber and other private transportation providers (PTP) in Edmonton. Other than the minimum charge - most likely to protect taxi drivers - the new laws deregulate fares with rides arranged via an app. Prices for any rides hailed on the street, at a cabstand or ordered over the phone are subject to city regulatory rates. As part of the agreement, Uber must pay $70,000 per year to operate in Edmonton. There were concerns of surge pricing - or gouging customers during a snow storm, for instance - but Mayor Don Ivesin said, "We'll monitor this very closely and in six months' time, if there's predatory behaviour or gouging occurring, then council certainly reserves the right to strengthen the minimums and maximums."
Ramit Kar, Uber's general manager for Alberta, said, "This is a great day for Edmonton. This is a win for both riders and drivers in Edmonton. Although we have made some concessions in the bylaw, this is a workable framework." Uber was not in favor of a minimum fare nor individual licenses for each driver, but still Kar thanked the city for working to create something that they can work with.
Alberta's superintendent of insurance must approve any policy that Uber wants to use for its drivers. They can sign up for the existing commercial policy that covers taxi drivers or introduce a new policy that meets their approval. Kar was "optimistic" that the insurance issue would be handled by March 1. Phil Strong, president of Yellow Cab, seemed to accept the inevitable changes - "We're not scared of people coming to town as long as they're playing right."
Coun. Oshry admitted that the bylaw isn't perfect but felt something needed to be passed. He said, "I think this bylaw is flawed but we really had no choice. We need a bylaw in place where we can enforce illegal activity and this one does that. The bylaw has both good points and challenges. It's the best of a situation that's virtually impossible to get right."