Uber stops operating in Edmonton: "The Province has cost thousands of families a source of income"

Insurance delay means company won't likely operate again until summer.

Uber is suspending its operations in Edmonton until further notice, now that the city's new ride-hailing bylaw has come into effect. While that bylaw kicked in March 1 and Intact Insurance has developed a policy that takes into account the unique needs of Uber drivers and passengers, Alberta's superintendent of insurance hasn't given it the final stamp of approval.

The Province says the policy will be available by July 1.

"The Province has cost thousands of Edmonton drivers income opportunities by forcing Uber to suspend operations in the city," the company said in a statement.

"Uber will respect the government’s decisions, and a temporary suspension will take effect...and deprive tens of thousands of local riders of a safe, affordable and reliable transportation alternative."

Uber in Edmonton

Uber said its drivers will continue to operate in Edmonton’s surrounding areas, since the new bylaw only applies within the city limits.

Province addressing "safety concerns"

Alberta's Transportation Minister Brian Mason said the province made it clear from the beginning the ride-hailing insurance Uber needs would not be available by March 1.

“[We need to] do due diligence and ensure that there’s no loopholes,” he said.

“Our plan ensures customers who use ride-for-hire services are safe, that the people who transport have the necessary skills and knowledge, and that there is insurance in place in the event of an accident."

At a news conference, Mason told reporters the City of Edmonton could have delayed the bylaw until July 1, when the extra insurance would be available to purchase.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson told The Edmonton Journal that's not an option.

"There's no mechanism for council to delay the implementation of the bylaw. It will come into effect...as it should."

New licence requirement

In addition to the new insurance, Uber drivers will now need a Class 4 driver's licence to operate in Alberta, the same as taxi drivers. The road test is longer, focusing on fatigue management, defensive driving, and helping passengers with disabilities. It also requires a medical test.

"Our priority is public safety. It's a more rigorous road test," said Brian Mason.

Uber says a Class 4 licence should not be a requirement for its drivers. It asked the Province to waive the requirement, but the Alberta government isn't budging.

Here are the Alberta government’s requirements for ride-hailing companies like Uber:

  • An interim insurance product that will provide adequate coverage to Uber drivers and their passengers. It has to be approved by the Superintendent of Insurance and it’s expected that this will be available by July 1.
  • Ride-for-hire drivers, including Uber, will require Class 4 Driver Licences or better.
  • All ride-for-hire drivers must complete a full information check conducted by police.

If Uber continued to operate in Edmonton without following the new guidelines, drivers could face a fine of $5,000.

Uber at odds with Calgary

About 300km south in Calgary, Uber isn’t having much luck either. City Council recently passed a bylaw that places several restrictions on the company. Uber says it simply can’t operate with those restrictions in place.

Uber in Calgary

"The bylaw, as it currently sits, actually breaks...the entire model. It would make sure ride-sharing would not be a reliable product,” Ramit Kar, general manager of Uber Alberta, told CTV News.

“It would not be able to bring on enough drivers to support the demand of the product and, quite frankly, the prices would just go up,” he said.

The Calgary bylaw comes into effect on April 4, but like Edmonton, Uber would need to obtain the Province’s new ride-hailing insurance before it could start operating again.

While the company says the Alberta government and both major cities are making it difficult to offer its services, it’s not giving up on operating there in the future.

"Uber will continue to work with officials in Alberta in the hopes of bringing ridesharing back,” Uber stated on its website.