Ottawa city council votes to legalize Uber

City council has voted to make Uber legal in Ottawa.

Beginning Sept. 30, ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft will be able to operate in the city as licensed private transportation companies.

"Today’s decision moves our transportation system in the right direction by challenging the status quo and opening up the market to competition," Mayor Jim Watson said in a statement. "Ottawa should be a place where people have access to safe, competitive, affordable, and effective transportation options."

Private transportation companies won't be treated like traditional taxis: drivers won't be licensed individually, instead charged an $0.11 cent fee per ride, and they won't have to install in-vehicle cameras like traditional cabbies.

PTCs will also have to regularly supply information about their drivers and their cars to the city.

It wasn't an easy win for the tech company that was called a "corporate bully" several times during the three-hour debate for its guerrilla tactics entering the market despite being illegal.

After the proposal passed, one taxi driver erupted into a rage, accusing Uber of being a criminal organization and telling councillors they're ruining the lives of 2,000 families. It took several minutes to remove him from the chamber.

But some councillors were uncomfortable with the decision, too.

Coun. Marianne Wilkinson and Coun. Bob Monette both said they were offended by the company's methods, but voted in favour of the new regulations because the alternative was to allow Uber to continue operating without any regulation whatsoever.

One of the biggest concerns was whether to require in-vehicle cameras for Uber drivers. Some councillors, including Eli El-Chantiry, Rick Chiarelli and Keith Egli, argued passionately on behalf of public safety, urging fellow councillors to make cameras mandatory immediately.

But others, such as Diane Deans and Allan Hubley, accused the taxi industry of using the camera debate as a way to price Uber out of the market. As part-time workers, most Uber drivers wouldn't invest in a pricey tamper-proof camera the way taxi drivers do.

In the end, only nine councillors voted to make Uber drivers buy cameras – not enough to pass the motion.

Instead, support went to Coun. Riley Brockington's "middle ground' motion to have staff come back in a year to review if cameras are necessary.

Mr. Brockington argued that will give staff enough empirical data to recommend if cameras in Uber cars are truly necessary to protect public safety.

Uber has said it will continue to operate until the bylaw goes into effect. The city said in a release it will continue to enforce the existing bylaw until Sept. 30.

- with files from OBJ staff

This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on April 13.