Uber won't compete with P.E.I. taxis any time soon

Published on December 17, 2015

Joe Arsenault has driven taxis for more than 40 years and has never seen anything as impactful on the cab industry as Uber.

©Nancy MacPhee/TC Media

It’s simple: download the app, request a driver at your location, and you’ll be picked up in moments.

If you’re on P.E.I., though, be prepared to wait a while.

The Uber takeover continues across Canada as the ride-sharing app fights to become the replacement for taxi services in Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton.

The company has met strong opposition from taxi drivers — particularly in Toronto in the form of protests and attacks — and has been taken off the roads in Calgary and Vancouver.

Joe Arsenault, a taxi driver with Courtesy Cab in Summerside, has been in the business since 1971 and like some other cabbies on P.E.I., he is paying close attention to the conflict in Toronto.

“Uber should not be able to operate with drivers that aren’t licensed or have commercial insurance,” said Arsenault.

He has two taxi licences, one he sold four years ago for roughly $240,000, and one that isn’t even worth half of that.

That’s because since Uber’s launch people can get the same service faster and sometimes for less money.

This is part of the reason why taxi drivers in Toronto are taking to the streets.

Arsenault admits that protests in Toronto are generating more sympathy for Uber, but are necessary in opening up discussion about Uber’s controversial insurance.

“We are regulated and we have rules to follow,” Arsenault says. ”They are carrying people without commercial insurance.”

Arsenault has simple advice for customers. “Don’t get in an Uber.”

Uber made an attempt at expanding into Eastern Canada with one chapter in Halifax, but that flopped due to a lack of personnel and failure to meet the city’s demands requiring drivers to have taxi licences.

In an email statement, Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, spokesman for Uber Canada, says the rest of the East Coast will remain on the backbench for Uber’s expansion plans.

“While we don’t have specific launch plans for P.E.I., N.B. and Newfoundland at the moment,” he says, “I can tell you that Uber aims to expand to communities across Canada and we’re always looking at ensuring that safe, affordable and reliable rides are available across the country.”

Uber Canada has focused its integration in highly populated cities, and without a large population to support it, it’s unlikely P.E.I. will see Uber arriving anytime soon.