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Uber threatens to pull out of Canada's Quebec

Ride-hailing service Uber has threatened to stop services in the Canadian province of Quebec from next month, saying it's pulling out to avoid following new regulations aimed at leveling the playing field with taxis.

Uber's decision to withdraw from Quebec comes after the province announced tough new measures last week. "We are going to have to cease our operations in Quebec on October 14," Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, director general of Uber Quebec, told a press conference, but calling for negotiations to find a solution that would allow the company to stay. 

The Uber executive accused the Quebec government of "trying to impose old (taxi) rules on a completely new technological model," saying "major changes" in the regulations would force Uber to effectively operate like a taxi company with full-time drivers. Under the new regulations unveiled last Friday, he said, Uber would not be able to attract and retain part-time or occasional drivers.

Guillemette urged the government to reconsider its position and renew a pilot program that allowed Uber to operate in the province over the past year, without any changes. At the same time, he offered to negotiate with authorities in the coming months to try to solve the deadlock.

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The original one-year test program, which is slated to end mid-October, required Uber to collect and pay taxes on each trip made by its drivers. It also capped the time worked by all drivers to a total of 50,000 hours per week.

Strong opposition

Last week, the government renewed the pilot but with stricter conditions that would require Uber drivers to undergo 35 hours of training - the same as taxi drivers - and a criminal background check by police. Uber vehicles would also be required to undergo annual safety inspections.

Taxi operators have opposed Uber's presence in Quebec, sometimes blocking traffic during protests in the province's largest city, Montreal.

The move means Uber will cease operations in Quebec cities including Montreal, the country's second-largest city, and Quebec City. It does not affect operations in other Canadian cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.

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Uber does not operate in Vancouver or Winnipeg, due to a lack of provincial regulation in the provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba, respectively. Uber is pulling out of Canada's second-most populous province as it faces an increasingly difficult operational environment across the world.

The announcement on Tuesday comes after London transport authorities last week said they would not renew Uber's license to operate in the British city when it expires, due to public safety concerns. Uber's new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who is seeking to rebuild the firm's tainted image, faces a challenging job as the company confronts regulatory attacks worldwide.

The app-based cab service, launched in 2009 in San Francisco, has faced legal troubles in several countries and some of its services have been banned.

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sri/dk (AFP, Reuters)

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