WATCH: Cabbies call government ''corrupt''; Philippe Couillard a ''liar'' over Uber
Taxi drivers shut down traffic on Wednesday, calling the government corrupt and Premier Philippe Couillard a liar for allowing Uber to operate in Quebec while, they say, skirting the rules of a system already in its favour.
"I would punch him in the face, [Premier] Philippe Couillard, because I'm suffering because of him," said Giuseppe Rucci, who owns a fleet of 10 taxis, when asked what he would say to the premier over the recent changes to the taxi business brought on by the arrival of Uber in Quebec.
About 100 to 150 taxi drivers descended on Montreal's downtown on Wednesday, closing busy streets to traffic as they made their way to the offices of Transport Quebec.
Many had different demands, but the unifying message from all was that Uber—which had already taken away so much from them—was profiting from unfairness in the system.
"If you want to do something, it has to be for everyone. I cannot play poker while someone has four cards and I have two—I cannot beat you," said Soheil Rahgozar, a computer engineer when he isn't driving a cab.
Rahgozar and several other cab drivers at the downtown march said the current rules in play for the industry allows for Uber and Teo Taxi an advantage: while individual drivers cannot rent their taxi permits, Uber shares them indiscriminately while Teo is able to rent them without issue.
They say they want that to change.
Others want the government to buy back taxi permits—known as medallions—at the price they were valued at before Uber destabilized the market.
One driver showed CJAD 800 his permit, for which he paid $215,000. He said is now valued at roughly half that.
"Let them pay us the cost of our permit, and take it, take it, no problem. Pay us and take our permit and give it to Uber, give it to anybody. we don't want this," driver Alex Khalifi told CJAD 800 News.
Among the regulations set up by the provincial government are that Uber drivers cannot accept cash or take a client off the street that flags them down.
But Hassan Katoua—known as the Taxi Sheriff for his dressing in Wild West garb, sheriff's badge, cowboy boots and all—claims he has recorded Uber drivers doing just that, and in some cases even handing out their phone numbers to clients so they can avoid using the app altogether.
He says from his experience taking incognito rides from the airport to downtown, only 10 per cent of Uber drivers would stick to the rules.
"Some of them automatically said, $30, $40, $60, whatever, they would give me a price [to pay in cash]," he said.
Uber said in a statement that this is only a small minority of drivers but that they're taking it very seriously and working on putting a stop to it.
Analysts say there is financial incentive for Uber drivers to take cash and not use the app, with Uber taking a 20 to 50 per cent cut of the final fare.
—with files from Shuyee Lee