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Edmonton Becomes The First Canadian City To Legalize Uber

A line of 26 police and peace officers prevented protesters from entering Edmonton council chambers during the Uber debate.

EDMONTON – Edmonton city councillors voted Wednesday to legalize the ride-hailing company Uber, making it the first Canadian municipality to do so.

Uber will be allowed to legally operate in the city starting March 1, provided the company’s drivers are able to get legal commercial insurance approved by the province. That process is still underway, reported CBC News.

Approval of the bylaw allows the city to crack down on drivers who do not comply with the law. City administration said Uber has made the commitment that it will cease operating when the bylaw comes into effect March 1, and will not resume operations until drivers can get the proper insurance. ​

After much debate, council agreed to set a minimum price of $3.25 per trip for rides offered by Uber and other private transportation providers that may wish to start operations in Edmonton.

Coun. Michael Oshry wanted to limit surge pricing to four times the regulated rate to avoid gouging during snowstorms, for example, when demand outstrips supply. But councillors decided to wait and see what happens before setting a top limit.

“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,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Alberta, said Edmonton’s bylaw is a model for other Canadian municipalities. He thinks the insurance issue will be resolved shortly.

Alberta’s superintendent of insurance has to approve any policy Uber provides its drivers. The bylaw makes it clear that all drivers must have proper insurance, either the commercial policy that covers taxis or new product that meets the province’s approval.

Kar said the issue should be resolved shortly.

Phil Strong, president of Yellow Cab, seemed resigned to the changes. He said the taxi industry can work with the bylaw as long as Uber doesn’t engage in predatory pricing aimed at pushing his company out of business.

The decision, which makes Edmonton the first city in Canada to legalize Uber, is certain to transform the taxi industry.

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