News / Calgary

Being jerks won't win favour in Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi warns Uber

Conduct and concerns about insurance have Calgary's mayor stopping short of endorsing a campaign to bring the popular e-hailing Uber app to the city.

"Let's just say, it's always better if you're not a jerk," Nenshi said in an interview with Metro, "and, in the case of Uber, they have continuously suggested that they're willing to work with the regulator, but in other cities their actions have not proven that and that's a problem."

Uber's services allows ride seekers to directly link up with drivers of everything from luxury sedans to common family vehicles. The company did run a trial of its UberBlack sedan service in Calgary last year, but Nenshi said there were reports that the company it linked up with was using drivers that didn't even have basic licences.

Uber has also received nearly 6,000 signatures on an online petition titled "Calgary Needs Uber" and has begun posting Facebook ads aimed at recruiting city drivers for its UberX service, one that sees people use everyday vehicles to provide low-cost transportation for customers. The company held a driver registration in Edmonton this week, with dozens of potential drivers registering for the pre-screening process.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada, however, convened a special meeting last month to discuss growing concerns about the policies — or lack thereof — held by drivers whose rides were being used for commercial purposes.

For his part, Nenshi said he sees a route that would allow UberBlack to operate in the city, adding he's "very happy" to discuss regulation changes that would remove the minimum $84.60 fare luxury drivers are required to charge and eliminate, at least during peak-demand hours, a requirement that all luxury rides be arranged with customers 30 minutes in advance.

But the mayor deemed UberX "a different kettle of fish," because of the insurance concerns.

"The challenge with insurance is Uber has claimed they have a $5-million policy, they talk about it all the time, but they won't show us the documentation of that policy," he said. "This is a big deal. There is a reason every car on the road has to have insurance and we have to sort that out along with issues with of driver training. I have to say, to date, Uber has not been particularly interested in sorting that out."

Uber has revved up controversy in other Canadian cities it's already ventured into. The City of Ottawa, for example, recently fined two company drivers it claimed were violating a service agreement. The Vancouver Taxi Association, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking an injunction to prevent Uber from operating on the West Coast.

Elsewhere, cabbies have staged mass protests, claiming the app unfairly cuts into their earnings.

But Uber spokesperson Lauren Altmin said in an email her organization has had several meetings with Calgary officials in recent months, including those stationed in the mayor's office. She said the company maintains a "contingent liability policy" for all UberX rides and that its app is focused on transparency and accountability.

"The fact remains that Calgarians en masse are asking for more and better transportation options in their city and Uber is committed to working toward a solution," Altmin said.

Nenshi, however, offered little indication that progress was being made on bringing Uber to the city.

"When they're willing to actually sit down with us, we'll sit down with them," he said.

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