04/21/2016 03:45 EDT | Updated 04/22/2016 02:21 EDT

Uber May Leave Toronto If New Rules Passed, Jeopardizing 15,000 Jobs

The ride-sharing service is unhappy with rules that may pass next month.

Ride service Uber is threatening to leave Toronto if the city passes new transportation regulations early next month, a move it says will leave 15,000 full-time and part-time drivers out of work.

The company sent a letter to its Toronto users this week, making it clear it plans to shut down in the city if council passes proposed new transportation regulations.

“Last week, the Licensing and Standards Committee voted to force Uber out of Toronto,” the letter begins. “If City Council votes the same way on May 3, Toronto will lose ridesharing (uberX) and the benefits that come with it.”

A screen capture of the top of Uber's letter to Toronto drivers.

Uber’s threats are often not idle. It suspended operations in Edmonton earlier this year, after the province failed to come through in time with promised insurance for ride services.

The company decided not to return to Calgary earlier this year after the city passed new regulations meant to legalize the service, but which Uber said made it impossible to do business.

What looked initially like an attempt by Toronto to legalize Uber turned into the opposite last week.

City staff had recommended dozens of changes to city bylaws that would normalize Uber’s legal status, but the licensing and standards committee — seen to be friendly to the taxi industry — gutted those rules last week, effectively leaving Uber and other ride-sharing services outside the law.

The taxi industry had objected to the new rules, as did Uber, even before the Uber-friendly parts were removed.

Uber objected to rules such as a proposed ban on cars older than seven years, and to a one-time $20,000 licensing fee.

Taxi drivers protesting Uber in Toronto, Dec. 9, 2015. (Getty Images)

The taxi industry argued the new rules favoured Uber. For instance, taxis would have to be inspected twice a year at city garages, while Uber cars would only have to be inspected once.

Taxi drivers say their earnings have been seriously reduced by Uber's presence. Some cab drivers say they have lost half their income since Uber set up shop in Toronto.

At last count, more than 68,000 people had signed Uber’s petition urging Toronto’s City Council not to go forward with the new regulations.

Uber says it employs 15,000 “driver-partners” in the city, and its presence has given “the accessibility community … a new affordable and reliable transportation option.”

The company says other services it has launched in the city — such as UberEATS, which delivers restaurant meals — will also shut down if city council votes in favour of the new rules.

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