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Uber backtracks on threat to leave Quebec and says it will stay for now

Company had said it would quit if province pushed forward with new rules. Quebec’s transport minister stands by proposals ‘as a matter of fairness’

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Quebec-Uber-Telco Talk - 16-Oct17

Uber has backed down from its threat to cease operations in the Canadian province of Quebec, saying instead that it now sees an opportunity for “constructive dialogue” with provincial authorities.

The ride-hailing service said last month it would stop operating in Quebec as of 14 October if the province continued to push forward with plans to demand additional training of its drivers.

With just hours left before this deadline – and after the province reiterated it was standing firm on its demands – the company said it would remain in Quebec, citing a recent change in transportation ministers as a chance for “constructive dialogue” with the province.

“We’ve confirmed that the new training requirements that would impede our ability to operate do not have to be initiated for a few months, and we are committed to working with the government over this period,” the company said in a statement. “In the meantime we will continue to serve Quebecers.”

The standoff in Quebec is the latest in a string of rows between Uber and local authorities. Last month, Uber was stripped of its license in London, and it is embroiled in disputes in cities around the world.

Uber began operating in Quebec last year as a one-year pilot. Since then the service has racked up nearly a million users in Quebec and counts about 5,000 weekly drivers.

Earlier this year Quebec announced new legislation that would require Uber drivers to undergo 35 hours of training – an amount in line with taxi drivers in the province – as well as have their vehicles inspected every 12 months and have criminal background check carried out by police, rather than private security companies.

Officials for Uber balked at the government-mandated training and said it would deter drivers from signing up.

“Can you imagine someone on Airbnb that is renting his apartment once, twice or three times month or three times a year?” Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, the general manager of Uber Quebec, asked reporters at the time. “That person would not be required to take 35 hours of training. And it’s the same situation for these drivers, working for Uber.”

Unless the province scrapped the proposed legislation, he said the service would be forced to stop operating in Quebec.

On Friday, Quebec’s minister of transport said the province continued to stand by the proposed legislation, making Quebec the only jurisdiction in Canada to demand government-mandated training for Uber drivers.

“This is a matter of fairness for all market partners and for the safety of users,” André Fortin said in a statement. “I also intend to work with our partners to develop innovative solutions to provide Quebec users with a modern industry that meets their needs.”

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