Illustrated by Houda Belgharbi
Ever since the apparition of Uber in Montreal there has been an uproar against the company, mostly from the Montreal taxi industry. Advantages of using Uber include “having cheaper rates and quicker pickup times’’ (Riga, 2016) than taxis, as well as being more user friendly, as you can request an Uber through a smart phone application. Some disadvantages to Uber include a variable rate fee, meaning that in times of great demand, such as Christmas time, their prices increase drastically and the consumer only knows the price once they have received the bill. Uber has also been involved in scandals where users’ private information has been released (Who’s Driving You, 2016). And finally, anyone can become an Uber driver (Uber, 2015), which can lead to the creation of unsafe situations for the customer.
Montreal taxis have advantages that include ‘’the industry has a strong lobby built during many years of close collaboration with Montreal and the Quebec government’’ (Riga, 2016), and that they are already established in the market and have built up a
reputation. A disadvantage of the taxi industry is that even if some improvements have been made to the industry, like implementing a dress code and providing their clients the option of electronic payment, these improvements are not widely practiced. Also, the taxi industry does not demonstrate a united front as they are separated into sectors. In Montreal, the taxi industry is accusing Uber of being unfair competition, of not abiding by minimum wage, public safety laws and the conventions of the transportation industry, such as not paying the standard taxi driver licence. Taxi drivers have held mass demonstrations blocking major arteries in the city as a form protest. Uber replies to these allegations saying that they are not employers, they simply provide a platform for drivers to find passengers at a fee and that they are part of the free market economy.
This becomes a political issue because the taxi industry is blaming the Quebec government, who has been extremely reserved on its comments regarding this issue, for its inaction in letting Uber operate illegally without abiding to proper laws. My stance on this is that the Quebec government should intervene and properly impose the same regulations on Uber that the taxis have. I encourage the government to intervene and to regulate the market.
This view is part of the reform liberalism ideology as it is essential to respect the rule of law that states the no one is above the law and also that the government should intervene in the economy to make sure things remain equal. From this ideological perspective the government should ‘’help remove obstacles’’ (Mintz, Close, & Croci, 2014, p. 56) to development because Uber is prohibiting the development of the Taxi industry. This issue is important as the actions that the government decides to take will determine what the future will hold for taxi drivers as well as it will set a precedent as to the limits of government intervention.
I wrote a letter voicing my opinion to the National Assembly of Quebec, as they hold the jurisdiction in this matter and they offer an option on their website to voice your opinion with a section to ‘comment on the subject of a public consultation’ (Voice Your Opinion, 2012). When writing a comment on this website your comment will be sent to a member of the National Assembly and their staff who have jurisdiction on the matter you are interested in; in my case that would be people like André Lamontagne who is Member of the Committee on Labour and the Economy or Claude Surprenant who is a Member of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment .This is a plebiscitary measure as I am trying to influence the government that my interests matter and that they should be taken into account (Mintz, Close, & Croci, 2014, p. 241). They are going to have public hearings on the matter very soon (Couture, 2016, p. 4), and although I cannot attend because the signing process is over I can still participate through a letter. I chose this form of action because it is very formal and it can be kept on record, and also because I missed the deadline for the public hearings. I hope to at least give my opinion, take part in the democratic decisions of my government and hopefully sway the balance in the favour of what I believe.
Politicians mostly will begin to truly analyse an issue in depth when they receive multiple letters about the same topic (Citizens for Public Justice). So my single letter probably did not seem to make much of an impact to anyone in government. I sent my letter to the elected member Iracà on November 9, 2016, and I have yet to receive a response (at time of writing it is December). I do not feel as though my action made much of a difference because I do not think I was taken seriously. Further, I have no knowledge as to whether or not the email was even viewed. I believe this action would have made more of an impact if at least 20 people wrote a letter to the same person.
To conclude, my action was arguably ineffective. Learning more about this issue reinforced my view that Uber should not simply be left to do what it wants just on the basis that it is part of a free economy. I understand that the National Assembly is busy but I would have appreciated at least an automatic email saying that my letter was received and being taken into consideration. After all, what is the point of writing to a letter to an elected member if you never hear feedback from them again? Next time I would probably try to engage more people to write to the same person on the issue in hopes of being taken more seriously.
Couture, P. (2016) Uber pourrait être légal seulement en 2017. Le Journal de Quebec Retrieved from http://www.journaldequebec.com/2016/10/12/uber-pourrait-etre-legal-seulement-en-2017
Mintz, E., Close, D. & Croci, O. (2014). Politics, Power, and the Common Good: An Introduction to Political Science (4th ed), Pearson Education.
Neblo, M. (2014). Reform Pluralism as Political Theology and Democratic Technology. Poliscience. Retrieved from polisci.osu.edu/sites/polisci.osu.edu/files/NebloELJ.pdf.
Riga, A. (2016) Uber uproar: The rage in Montreal and the strategies elsewhere. Montreal Gazette. Retrieved from montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/uber-uproar-the-rage-in-montreal-and-the-strategies-elsewhere
Uber (2015). Become a driver.Retrieved from http://www.uber.com/a/join?use_psh=true&exp=int-def-c .
Voice Your Opinion (2012). Quebec National Assembly. Retrieved from http://www.assnat.qc.ca/en/exprimez-votre-opinion/index.html. 17 Oct. 2016.
Who’s Driving You (2016). 7 common Uber problems. Retrieved from http://www.whosdrivingyou.org/blog/7-common-uber-problems.