Uber says it’s backing down on its threat to cease operations in Quebec starting Saturday, citing a willingness to engage in “constructive dialogue” with the new transport minister.
The ride-hailing company wants the government to ease up on proposed regulations that would require drivers to undergo 35 hours of training and have criminal background checks done by a police force.
But in a statement Friday, Uber said it received information that it would take a few months to enforce the training requirement after the rules come into effect. In the meantime, the company said, it is willing to continue negotiating with the government.
Uber sent a letter, signed by general manager Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, to its drivers and passengers Friday morning to explain the situation and thank them for their support.
Transport Minister André Fortin made it clear Friday morning that the province would be standing firm.
“My job is to put a regulatory framework in place. Whether a specific private company decides to operate within it, it’s not for me to be for or against that,” Fortin told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.
Government agrees to minor concession
Fortin said the government is willing to give Uber drivers time to get their background checks done. New drivers, who start on or after Sunday, will have eight weeks, while current drivers will have two years.
Fortin says the role of the Transport Ministry is to create regulations that work for everyone and ensure the safety of users.
Premier Philippe Couillard said early Thursday that while the province will keep talking with the company, it would not “submit to a multinational.”
Uber has said it wasn’t consulted about the changes, which they consider to be major, and that the training requirement is too much for drivers who only work part time.
If the new rules come into effect, Quebec will be the only Canadian jurisdiction where Uber operates that requires drivers to do training.
The old pilot project began last year and expires Saturday. Under those rules, the government required drivers to pass a 4C driver’s licence test, and forced Uber to train its own drivers and make sure they did not have criminal records.
But the background checks could be done by a private company.
Fortin, 35, has been transport minister for three days. He replaced Laurent Lessard in Wednesday’s cabinet shuffle.
Earlier this week, Uber drivers expressed hope that the appointment of a new transport minister could yield an improved relationship between the company and the Couillard government.