Cabbies give emotional protest to Windsor's new Uber rules

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Cabbies give emotional protest to Windsor's new Uber rules

Taxi drivers gave an emotional protest Monday night, but city council moved ahead with its new controversial regulations that legalize Uber in Windsor. 

Lawyers, taxi drivers and cab owners argued against the new rules, which they say creates two different systems for ride-sharing services and taxis, while putting a much more onerous and expensive burden on taxi operations.

The new regulations mean Uber drivers must undergo the same background checks as cab drivers, which was a major complaint throughout the five-hours of discussion at city hall. 

Both taxi and Uber drivers cannot have vehicles more than 10 years old, which adds two years to the previous limit taxis had. Vehicles between one and five years old must go through annual inspections, while anything older than five must be inspected twice a year. 

The latest recommendations outline plans for the city to charge licensing fees to ride-share companies, but they fall short of creating a "level playing field" for everyone, explained Marwan Abouzeeni, a  Vets Cab driver.

He says Uber drivers do not have to pay the same fees to the city, putting them at an unfair advantage.

"How on earth would anyone in this chamber call this a level playing field?" Abouzeeni asked.

Myron Shulgan, is a lawyer representing more than 200 taxi drivers, who hold licenses with the city. He questions why any city council would create new laws for a company unwilling to obey existing ones. 

"Why change the system just because Uber comes along and says they don't want to comply with the bylaws?" he asked. "Why should special exemption be given?"

John Toth, first vice-president of Unifor Local 195, called on council to force Uber drivers to have video cameras in every vehicle, just as taxi drivers have. 

"It's only fair," he told council. 

Vets Cab general manager Walter Bezzina says police regularly work with taxi operators to solve crimes by reviewing video cameras.

"Cameras eliminate any of the he-said-she-said" component of any conflict, he told council. 

Chris Schafer of Uber Canada says ride-sharing services takes away the anonymity that attract criminal activity. Riders and passengers are all identified in the apps they use.

Installing cameras would be too expensive, Schafer explained. 

"We would not be able to operate in the City of Windsor going forward, if that was the cost," he said.