Edmonton votes to legalize Uber

Published: January 28, 2016

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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Despite vocal protest from taxi drivers during debate this week, the City Council of Edmonton voted to legalize the UberX service in the city. It was an historic council meeting held over Tuesday and Wednesday as Edmonton became the first municipality in Canada to vote to legalize the controversial ride-sharing company.

Toronto had previously voted to regulate UberX, but has not followed through with those plans as yet, and that vote was not the same vote of confidence that Edmonton gave Uber this week. The result of the debate means that Uber and its service are now legally able to operate in the city of Edmonton from March 1, 2016.

The one caveat placed by the city is that drivers must have auto insurance coverage to drive for UberX, something that is likely to provide one last stumbling block. At the moment all UberX drivers in Canada are operating without proper insurance coverage, using their personal policies that are not designed for vehicles being used commercially.

Aviva Canada, the country’s second largest insurance provider, said this month that it will be launching a ride-sharing auto policy that will cover UberX. That coverage is expected to debut in February, before UberX becomes legal in Edmonton. However, Aviva says its policy will be exclusive to Ontario for the time being and has not mentioned expansion to other cities.

Perhaps the historic vote in Edmonton and the fact the city is the first in the county to offer Uber a legal sanctuary could sway Aviva into rolling out its new product in Alberta too. The company has not spoken of that eventuality, but it is clear that Edmonton is now a major market in Canada for UberX.

A major coup for the city has been getting Uber to agree to a ceasing of operations from March 1 until drivers can get proper insurance. No other city has managed to get the company to agree to such terms, while the company also accepted the council’s minimum fare of $3.25 per trip with UberX. On top of that, Uber will pay a flat rate of $70,000 per year to operate in Edmonton.

"We'll monitor this very closely and in six months' time, if there's predatory behavior or gouging occurring, then council certainly reserves the right to strengthen the minimums and maximums," Mayor Don Iveson said.