CityOpinion

Edmonton needs Uber, city can make easy transition

Get ready: we’re on the verge of a modern-age Luddite movement. Technological change has always displaced workers, but innovations in the transport and shipping industry are set to cause more unemployment than ever before. Fortunately, we can – and should – take advantage of the newest technology without throwing the jobless to the streets.

Ever since Uber was introduced, taxi drivers have thrown protests all over the world. Even Edmonton cabbies protested Uber back in January. But nobody demonstrates better than the French, where protests are a national pastime. Taxi drivers blocked roads in Paris on June 25, then flipped cars, burned tires, ambushed Uber drivers and threw rocks off overpasses at suspected Uber cars. The rocks weren’t small; one video shows a rock shattering a luxury sedan’s windshield to cheers from a crowd of cabbies. The protests apparently worked. Two Uber France executives were taken into custody Monday. On Friday, Uber suspended one of its most controversial services in Paris, UberPOP.

It’s easy to look at the cab drivers as villains if you’ve ever taken Uber. Uber provides an app that lets passengers connect with drivers. All drivers have ratings, making it easier to trust the person driving you around in a giant hunk of metal at 80km/h for the next 20 minutes. It also keeps the drivers accountable: I’ve been in a few cabs driven by half-asleep, likely overworked, cabbies, but I’ve only had good experiences with Uber. Uber rides are generally cheaper, and passengers don’t have to worry about tipping. For consumers, it’s a great update to an outdated service.

That’s why banning Uber is a horribly anti-competitive method to save jobs. Although a Toronto court ruled Uber legal there on Friday, Edmonton continues to fight the company. It’s unfortunate for a city that tries to bill itself on being innovative and welcome to tech startups. Uber shouldn’t have a monopoly on individual transport services, but neither should cab companies. New players doing things better is the whole reason capitalism works as well as it does.

So how do we keep Uber while making sure any lost jobs are handled well? If Uber completely replaced the taxi industry tomorrow, older cab drivers may have difficulty finding jobs, some may have trouble adapting to the technology of Uber and others may not have the money to get training for a new job. And Uber isn’t even the end: driverless cars are coming. The oilsands are already using self-driving trucks, and a driverless truck corridor has been proposed from Mexico to Manitoba. When consumer driverless cars become available in the next few decades, Uber drivers will be in the same situation as taxi drivers are now.

Surprisingly, our own mayor came out in support of a possible answer to these problems. Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton’s Don Iveson both support the idea of a guaranteed minimum income. With this form of welfare, the poor wouldn’t get as many governmental services aimed to help them. Instead, they’d just get a basic, livable income, even if they are unable to work. Unlike minimum wage, basic income isn’t affected by unemployment, and it wouldn’t have the same social stigma as social welfare programs.

Taxi drivers may be the perfect candidates, as they could then drive for services like Uber to supplement their basic income. A March 2012 study by Citizenship and Immigration Canada found that about 44.1% of drivers “have at least some postsecondary education and may be overqualified for their jobs.”  Those drivers could now have more time to find a job they already have the skills for.

The same study found that about half of all taxi drivers are immigrants. Some post-secondary programs in other countries do not transfer to Canada without the person taking additional certifications. But without money and then time due to work, they often can’t get those certifications. Basic income would allow them to work towards better jobs, and as an added benefit, provide Canada with more highly skilled workers.

A common criticism of basic income is that there is no incentive to work. But it only provides the minimum to live; it is, after all, basic. People would still need to work to be able to afford a better lifestyle, such as buying better goods and entertainment or going on vacations. Another confusion is where the money would come from. Much of it would be from cutting existing, now-redundant welfare programs. The rest would have to come from increasing taxes in the corporate sector or for those with higher incomes.

Increasing taxes for this might have seemed impossible a few months ago, but we now have an NDP government. They’ve already reintroduced progressive income taxes and increased the corporate tax rate. Albertans live in one of the richest places in the world. With our new progressive government, we have the perfect opportunity to try out basic income. It doesn’t have to be immediate; just like Uber isn’t replacing taxis overnight, basic income should be implemented gradually.

Uber is just the beginning of what will be a long, drawn-out fight for workers rights in our modern technological age. A gut reaction would be to fight these new technologies in a brave fight to save the working class. But we can avoid fighting by embracing better technology while adapting existing services to help the people affected.

11 Comments

  1. Uber is providing safe rides on cheaper rates and employment with accountability. Druver rating is an uber innovation.

  2. i have taken Uber..it might be cheap but it is very risky… and it seems like everyone is being racist towards cab drivers because they are mostly from different race.

    1. In your dreams honey, they can say anything they want. Until it comes to a court case, which can take many many years we really don’t know exactly what kind of insurance they do have. In the US I really have not seen many headlines about. UBER SETTLE COURT CASE WHERE THERE DRIVER WAS AT FAULT. Just the opposite in fact. If this was true why have they refused so many people access to the details of this policy.

    1. Name any auto insurance company which allows its personal use policy holder to drive for Uber?

      1. They don’t use personal use insurance. Uber provides all of its drivers with commercial insurance.

  3. Uber doesn’t want to pay Taxes in Alberta. 100% UberX drivers are committing Insurance & GST FRAUD. Why don’t Uber drivers get commercial insurance, pay GST and get city licenses like taxi drivers to have an equal abc safe playing field? You have cheat on your personal insurance company to drive Uber, how safe it is?

  4. RISKS FOR UBER DRIVERS

    The biggest risk for drivers is that your auto insurance does not cover using your vehicle to carry passengers. This means that if you get in an accident while transporting a passenger, you could face serious liability and vehicle replacement costs. If you want to be an Uber driver, you have to add the Permission to Carry Paying Passengers endorsement to your insurance, and this can be costly.

    Additionally, if you are using the vehicle to carry paying passengers, and don’t have the requisite municipal license, the endorsement will not be enough to get you out of hot water with the law as you are operating as a taxi in contravention of local bylaws. Cities such as Ottawa and Toronto are cracking down on Uber drivers, in some cases having bylaw officers book rides on the app and hand out fines to drivers who don’t have taxi licenses.

    The worst case scenario for an Uber driver is that the vehicle policy is invalidated by undisclosed use to carry passengers, leaving you without auto insurance, making you liable for any legal or medical costs and making it harder – and more expensive – for you to get auto insurance in the future.

    If you do choose to register your vehicle as a taxi, it must be properly licensed and insured commercially as a taxi – the Permission to Carry Paying Passengers endorsement is not enough.

  5. RISKS FOR UBER PASSENGERS

    While the risks associated with being an Uber driver are great, risks for passengers are greater. First of all, you may be getting into a vehicle that is not insured properly, which could leave you with the burden of going after the driver in court to reclaim legal and medical costs. If an insurer voids an auto policy or denies a claim due to material misrepresentation, then the vehicle owner and driver would be personally liable for damages they cause in a accident including property damage and bodily injury. Additionally, to sue for injuries in Ontario, you must meet a certain threshold of injury before you can do so.

    The next – and greatest – risk is that the background checks that Uber drivers are put through are spotty at best. A taxi driver must have a clean criminal and driving record to maintain their taxi license. According to a NBC news report, Uber used drivers in the San Francisco area who had various criminal charges on their records including domestic assault, drug trafficking and burglary. While the service states that it runs background checks, these weren’t enough to catch the records uncovered by NBC’s investigative report.

    If you are a driver that has been using the service, contact your broker to get the proper insurance policy for your vehicle use, as well as your local municipal licensing office to inquire about a taxi license to protect yourself and your passengers. If you are an Uber passenger, ask to see proof that your driver holds both a taxi license and the proper insurance before your ride begins. Or do the smart thing and just get a taxi – a little extra wait for a taxi isn’t worth the potential hassle.

    1. Actually you need to check your facts a bit more.
      Uber provides all of their driers with the correct insurance.
      The background check system in Canada is far greater and more in depth than the U.S. has.
      I’ve been in both a cab and an Uber car. I’ll still use both and come holiday season, it’ll be much easier for ppl to use both kinds of companies to get home in a safe manner.

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