Uber is leaving Quebec, and the consequences will be dire.
Taking over media outlets yesterday, the news that Quebec's Transport Minister would be imposing new regulations upon the ride-sharing service caused quite an uproar in Montreal and the province at-large.
According to a La Presse exclusive, the new bill would effectively force Uber to operate like traditional taxis. Limiting the number of Uber cars on the road, imposing taxes on each ride, and forcing drivers to buy (rather expensive) taxi permits, are all examples of what will likely be on the new bill.
Nothing has yet to be confirmed regarding the bill (the public will get details next week), but everyone already sees the new regulation as a reality.
In response, Uber has gone on the record to say, that if Quebec were to pass this new regulatory framework, the company, one of the largest and most successful in the entire world, would pull out of the province.
Again, Uber is primed to leave Quebec. To many, this is a sign of good tidings, as many have loathed Uber for the competition it posed to the province's taxi industry.
But regardless of how you feel about the Uber vs. taxi debate, the fact that Quebec is purposefully ousting a modern, globally popular, and effective service from the province points to a much larger problem: Quebec refuses to evolve.
What Uber Leaving Really Means
Since Uber's arrival into Montreal and Quebec, the issue hasn't been so much with the app itself, but rather how it posed a risk to the city/province's established taxi industry. The livelihood of hundreds of cab drivers, who were legally operating within the established taxi system, was put at risk.
With that in mind, it's hard not to see why Uber is detested by many. But the thing is, being a cab driver wasn't all that great to begin with.
Forced to buy or rent a limited amount of incredibly expensive taxi permits (priced at around $200,000) simply to work, cab drivers were put at a serious disadvantage in comparison to Uber. The former had to pay thousands of dollars just to work in a restricted system, while the latter (at least UberX drivers) could operate freely.
So to equalize things, Quebec is prepared to impose a new regulatory framework on Uber that is pretty much based on the old, outdated, and proven-to-be problematic taxi industry.
There is another option, though. Quebec could simply improve the existing system (e.g. lower the price of taxi permits, increase the number of available permits) to make the lives of taxi drivers easier, thus evening out the playing field.
The decision is quite telling: Quebec would rather stay with the old/ineffective rather than modernize and make room for new forms of businesses and services.
Quite honestly, this wouldn't be such a big issue if the company Quebec chose to actively denounce was almost any other than Uber.
But Uber is very much the prime example of a modern business service. Not only is it wildly profitable, Uber is insanely popular among residents around the world. What happens when tourists come to Montreal/Quebec, and can't hail an Uber like they're used to? No doubt the feeling won't be positive.
And when word gets out internationally that Quebec's government went out of its way to alienate a multinational corporation like Uber, and it will, what will that say to similar businesses? In essence, ousting Uber makes Quebec look like a volatile setting for foreign businesses to set up shop.
(We won't even touch on that fact that, if Uber was a Quebec business, things would have gone far differently)
By outright attacking Uber, and not finding a way to fit the business (one that citizens and tourists alike use, thus continually boosting the economy) into the province's existing framework, Quebec is showcasing how it refuses to change with the times.
And this is a problem that really isn't limited to Uber, either.
Language Laws, Diversity, And Sticking With The Old
Language laws have long since been a deterrent for businesses to open branches in Quebec, for a variety of reasons. But we're not here to debate language laws, they exist, they're important, and they're simply a reality in Quebec.
Rather, it's a recent development regarding language laws and commercial businesses that showcases Quebec's unwillingness to evolve.
A few weeks ago, the Quebec legal system found that, for years, the OQLF had been misinterpreting language laws in the province. This occurred when the Couillard government wanted to force multinationals to add french descriptions to their signage.
The original rule says, however, that if the business's name is trademarked, then no one could force them to change their logo or signs in the slightest.
Some took this as great news, assuming that the constant contention between Quebec and the OQLF with foreign (or English-speaking Canadian) multinationals like Walmart, Costco, and Toys‘R’Us would end, at least in this aspect of the language debate.
That hasn't been the case. For instead of letting such businesses operate in Quebec without the need for new signage and other cosmetic restrictions, the Quebec government is trying to change the original law and make the language-rules far stricter.
Once more, people will herald the new language laws as a beneficial development, one that will preserve Quebec culture. How forcing businesses to add French to their signs (and potentially even uniforms and interior) preserves a culture is beyond us, but that is neither here nor there.
On the other hand, it's another piece of evidence of Quebec's resistance to change. Instead of making the province more appealing to foreign businesses by simply letting them keep their signs (which was already the law), Quebec wants to make things even harder.
One could argue that this is "change," but it's really just an intensification of pre-existing regulations. Here again do we find Quebec harkening back to the past to determine the present, rather than look to the future and find ways in which all parties involved can prosper.
Unfortunately, this isn't even a problem limited to the economy. Quebec's distinct lack of diversity in its media showcases the province's preoccupation with "traditional" (read: white-washed) forms of representation. Instead of embracing modern multiculturalism, Quebec media chooses to maintain an outdated representation of diversity, one entirely based on the past.
So what needs to change? Well, Quebec's stance on change itself. Instead of seeing foreign businesses (and foreign peoples themselves) as a threat, the province should regard them as an opportunity, a chance to grow, a chance to change.
Preservation is important, but not when it impedes progress, and if Quebec continues to try and "stay the same" then it will only lag as the rest of the world moves forward. It's time to evolve Quebec, because staying in the past isn't the way to move into the future.