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Taxi drivers look like 'thugs' in anti-Uber video, Ottawa mayor says

08/06/2015 12:05 EDT | Updated 08/06/2016 05:59 EDT
Ottawa's mayor says the city's taxi drivers look like a gang of "thugs" in a YouTube video that shows them ordering and taking Uber rides in an effort to relay licence plate numbers to bylaw officers.

Jim Watson said the video posted to YouTube only hurts the cause of taxi drivers in their ongoing battle with the Uber ride-sharing service.

"It does not help the situation when this sort of gang, posse is going around and secretly videotaping people and their cars," Watson said on Thursday.

"It makes them look like they're thugs or engaged in vigilante activity, which I think harms them and [doesn't help] the cause."

On Monday night, a group of five taxi drivers gathered to order three separate Uber rides, filming each of the rides on smartphones.

In one of the videos, three taxi drivers ask the Uber driver questions under the guise of wanting to become Uber drivers as well.

"What we did is to help the City of Ottawa and the bylaw [department], and to give them enough evidence as proof that what they're doing is illegal. And we're going to share every evidence that we have, to give it to them so they can go after them," said Roy Noja, a driver with BlueLine Taxi.

"We will continue doing that to prove to the city that we have evidence to go after them and give them tickets," Noja said.

The city has said it does not recommend the public collect their own evidence to assist investigations. Instead, residents should call 311.

Undercover officers continue to charge Uber drivers

Bylaw officers continue to work undercover in an effort to catch Uber drivers, Watson said.

Since October 2014, bylaw officers have laid 110 taxi bylaw charges against 54 different Uber drivers. Of those, 37 drivers pleaded guilty to 74 charges with fines totaling more than $22,000.

Watson did express sympathy for those who earn a living driving taxis, but he added bylaw officials should take care of all evidence-gathering.

"You don't want to see that industry die. In many instances those people are living at or below the poverty line. Obviously Uber is affecting their livelihood," the mayor said.

"But to take almost this vigilante kind of approach — all jammed into a cab with a video recorder — doesn't make any sense."

In an emailed statement, Uber Canada spokeswoman Susan Heath said "the right path forward is to develop common sense" ride-sharing regulations.

"We believe that intimidation tactics such as these should give way instead to a constructive dialogue, focused on making available safer, more reliable and affordable transportation options to Ottawans," Heath wrote.

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