09/24/2015 04:35 EDT | Updated 09/24/2016 05:12 EDT

Uber can help address gridlock in big cities, says Obama election mastermind

MONTREAL — Uber's chief adviser is on a swing across Canada selling the controversial ride-hailing service.

David Plouffe says UberX provides flexible employment and can help address the gridlock that is gripping big cities.

The manager of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign made his pitch in Montreal on Thursday after visiting Toronto and before appearing in Vancouver.

Uber has raised the ire of the taxi industry, which says its business has dropped with the arrival of the unlicensed and lower-priced competitor.

But Plouffe says Uber isn't in competing for a "stagnant small taxi pie" but attempting to grow a market that is an alternative to private cars and public transit that will improve municipalities.

Several hundred cabbies protested in Montreal and Quebec City a month ago urging the province to outlaw the service.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has said he's open to legalizing the service but his transportation minister and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre have called it illegal.

A spokesman for the taxi industry says it isn't willing to let a parallel industry to take money from cabbies who have paid hefty permit fees.

Benoit Jugand of the union representing about 5,000 taxi drivers in the province says the government will have to provide compensation if it's not willing to ensure a level playing field.