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Eadie quits Taxicab Board over its 'back-door' Uber approval
Mynarski councillor also unhappy with Mayor Bowman's support for ridesharing service
March 1, 2017
Bartley Kives

Winnipeg city Coun. Ross Eadie has resigned from the provincial Taxicab Board over what he describes as back-door efforts to fast-track the approval of ride-sharing service Uber.

The Mynarski councillor quit the board Wednesday over its desire to see Uber vehicles licensed like limousines — as well as comments about Uber made by Mayor Brian Bowman at last week's State of the City speech.

Eadie says the Taxicab Board met behind closed doors on Jan. 5 to accept a consultant's report recommending legislative changes that would allow Uber vehicles to be licensed like executive-class cars.

The board has not made any decisions about Uber, but intends to ask the province to amend the relevant limo legislation, said Eadie, describing this as a means of allowing the software-based ridesharing service in through a back door.

The councillor said this would create a two-tiered vehicle-for-hire system, because passengers need credit cards to hire Uber drivers. He said Manitoba needs a longer term plan to allow taxis and Uber vehicles to coincide.

Taxicab Board chair Randy Williams said what was discussed would not constitute a back-door means of approving Uber. He said the mechanism to license Uber vehicles already exists, as 50 executive vehicles are already licensed in Winnipeg.

"An executive car is nothing fancy. It's power windows, carpets, air conditioning, and cloth and leather seats," Williams said.

Eadie also said he was annoyed Bowman used his annual speech to welcome Uber to Winnipeg without consulting him beforehand.

"So what, all those people in this city will pay cash because they can't use credit cards?" Eadie said. "That's the two-tier system the mayor wants to create."

Eadie said he was thinking about quitting the Taxicab Board when it chose to deal with the Uber file at its Jan. 5 meeting, which took place when the councillor was on vacation in Mexico.

Bowman's speech pushed him over the edge, he said.

"If the mayor wants to get this done, I encourage him to immerse himself in the problems and figure out how this is going to work without wrecking the vehicle-for-hire industry," he said.

Jonathan Hildebrand, a spokesman for the mayor, said in a statement Bowman's comments "should comes as no surprise to Coun. Eadie who has been opposed to Uber and innovation in the taxicab industry for quite some time."

Hildebrand said Bowman's support for Uber "followed the release of an external report commissioned by the Taxicab Board itself that recommended the entrance of companies like Uber into the Manitoba marketplace. This report also demonstrated strong public support for ride-sharing services."

Council must now appoint a replacement for Eadie on the Taxicab Board. Williams said he enjoyed working with Eadie and is sad to see the councillor go.

The report commissioned by Williams' board, prepared by consulting firm MNP LLP, concluded in December that Winnipeg has significantly fewer taxicabs per capita than communities of a comparable size — one cab for every 1,252 people in winter in Winnipeg, compared to one cab for every 860 people on average elsewhere.

It recommended companies such as Uber should be licensed as a separate category but governed by safety and consumer protection rules similar to those for taxis.