05/10/2016 10:56 EDT | Updated 05/11/2017 05:12 EDT

It's Not Fair Competition Unless Uber Plays By The Rules

Bernard Weil via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - MAY 14 -Photographed at The CNE, Toronto, Uber taxi service is a new way to travel around the city. Request and payment are all made using an app. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

If Uber really wants to join the arena, it should be asked to play by the same rules as everyone else.

For example, when Emirates tried to join the Canadian market in 2010, hell broke loose. The government listened to competing airlines' concerns, even when Emirates did not ask for any special treatment.

Air Canada raised concerns fearing of the effects Emirates moving into Canada would have on its bottom line, and the government caved in and rejected Emirates' initiative.

This caused a major rift between the two countries. It is important to note that the UAE-based airline did not ask for a preferential treatment like Uber has. Its initiative was praised even by the Consumers' Association of Canada, which at that time said allowing carriers from the Emirates to expand in Canadian markets would be "very beneficial" to consumers as reported by CBC.

"We've got a situation where somehow diplomatic matters for Canada are being linked to the interest of Canada's major airline," said association president Bruce Cran.

"It doesn't make sense at all. We're wondering when someone will step in and protect consumers' rights here."

Cran said the argument that Air Canada would lose a significant number of passengers if the two UAE airlines were allowed into the country more frequently is moot.

"We're talking about a destination to which Air Canada does not even fly (directly)," said Cran, adding that there was no reason for Canadian consumers to be forced to give preference to Air Canada's Star Alliance carriers, which operate competing routes through Europe.

"Consumers are getting the raw end of the stick all the way along here," he said.

But when taxi drivers are raising legitimate concerns, why does no one seem to listen to them? This is simply unfair and exposes a double standard.

Taxi drivers are concerned, and rightly so. They are appealing for rules to be applied equally. But politicians don't seem to be willing to listen anytime soon. I wonder if it is because the majority of cab drivers consist of immigrants, whose concerns may be viewed as less significant.

We tend to be shamefully hypocritical.

It is not fair to put taxi drivers through strenuous regulations in order to be able to make ends meet and support their families, and then give a free card to their competitor.

When Air Canada sounded the alarms, the government listened even though Emirates did not ask for special privileges. It didn't seek preferential treatment. All that it wanted was a fair share of the pie.

Air Canada was listened to attentively when its competitor didn't try to violate any rules of the game. The fact of the matter is that an airline with a virtual monopoly on Canadian airspace was simply concerned to have someone else playing in the arena.

But when taxi drivers are raising genuine concerns about a new force trying to enter the market through a back door, authorities received their outcry with deaf ears and have given Uber the thumbs up, despite hard-working cabbies voicing legitimate concerns about a company that is trying to play in the playground without any rules. Nonetheless, no one is paying any attention to them.

It is not fair to put taxi drivers through strenuous regulations in order to be able to make ends meet and support their families, and then give a free card to their competitor and allow them to do the same job with almost no restrictions.

That is not to say that Uber should be rejected outright. Any viable player in the market such as Uber should be welcomed.

It is a sign of a healthy economy to have a vigorous competition in the market where companies compete to improve their service quality and offer a viable alternative to consumers. It is also good for consumers as they feel a sense of freedom.

But to be fair, Uber should be forced to play the game fairly and the regulations governing the playground should be made equal for all -- with no exception.

Taxi drivers are strangled with license fees and other regulations. To demand my horse to be reined in and let yours roam freely is not a fair race. Remove the leash from taxi drivers and let the game begin.

Doing otherwise is neither fair or just. It is discrimination.

Toronto City Hall should exercise common sense here in making sure both teams are treated fairly as they are doing exactly the same job.

The city has the mandate to make sure any competitor ought to play by the same rules. All teams in the arena have to abide by the same rules like everyone else.

Who do they think they are?

Taxi drivers' concerns warrant attention and decisive action by the lawmakers. It is unfair to permit their competitors to operate above the law.



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