Ride-sharing companies such as Uber could be facing stiff fines and penalties if a private member’s bill is passed at Queen’s Park — a move lauded by unions.
Introduced on Dec. 3 by John Fraser, Member of Provincial Parliament for Ottawa South, the Protecting Passenger Safety Act would amend parts of the Highway Traffic Act by beefing up the penalties for drivers picking up passengers without a licence, permit or authorization.
Should it pass, the bill would increase fines, ranging from $500 to $30,000 per offence and drivers could have three demerit points knocked off their licence. For subsequent offences, drivers could face a 30-day vehicle impoundment and a 30-day licence suspension.
"This legislation is about ensuring that the rules in place for the safety of passengers are being followed — and that municipalities have the right enforcement tools to address these problems when they are not," Fraser said.
According to the City of Ottawa, investigations into illegal cab operations revealed drivers operating under the influence of drugs and alcohol, with criminal records and without insurance or licences.
Fraser's bill was welcomed by unions, which have long sought tough regulations for ride-sharing companies such as Uber.
“Strong legislation is needed to protect the public against bandit taxis in Ontario,” said Amrik Singh, president of Unifor’s local 1688 chapter, which represents taxi drivers in Ottawa.
Because Uber bills itself as a ride-share service as opposed to a taxi service, its drivers are not required to hold licences, which raises passenger safety and insurance concerns, Singh said.
“Those licences, regulations and bylaws are there to protect the public and ensure a stable taxi industry,” he added.
In Mississauga, Uber has been required by the city to get a broker’s licence. The City of Toronto’s licensing and standards division has filed an application for a court injunction against the company, citing public safety. On the west coast, in British Columbia, the provincial government has required that Uber apply for limousine licences in order to operate.
The company intends to put up a fight.