QUEBEC — The Quebec government will give the province’s taxi drivers $500 million in compensation as it moves to overhaul the province’s passenger transport industry.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec government tabled a bill that seeks to reduce the number of costly requirements for taxi drivers and allow them to benefit from a dynamic pricing system like that used by Uber.

Transport Minister Francois Bonnardel said the government will compensate taxi permit holders who’ve seen the value of those permits drop with the arrival of Uber and other ride-hailing applications.

He said the legislation would create a more equal playing field among various companies competing in the industry by reducing taxi drivers’ costs and allowing them to adjust prices based on demand.

But groups representing taxi drivers were angry with the bill, calling it a declaration of war. The industry has long argued that government hasn’t done enough to clamp down on Uber drivers, whom they say have been undercutting fares and operating outside the law.

The bill introduced by Bonnardel would require all drivers to meet the same obligations. These include a standard class 5 licence (as opposed to the current 4C required for taxi drivers), a training course and a criminal background check.

“We’re putting money back in taxi drivers’ pockets,” Bonnardel said. He said that by lowering the financial burden on taxi drivers, the industry will be able to stabilize and find its place in the market.

That assertion was challenged by the taxi industry representatives, who accused the government of betraying them and acting as lobbyists for Uber.

“It’s a declaration of war” and a “dark day for the taxi industry,” industry spokesman Abdallah Homsy said at a news conference.

The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press