Taxi drivers to protest in Montreal

Quebec taxi drivers, angry about a government proposal to overhaul their industry, are planning to protest across the province Friday.

The biggest demonstration is expected in Montreal, where cab drivers from several regions are expected to converge upon the downtown core later this morning.

They will then hold a demonstration in front of the Transport Ministry offices on René-Levesque Boulevard near Beaver Hall Hill.

Krimed Mokrine, one of the drivers who showed up at the Galeries d’Anjou parking lot ahead of the east-end convoy’s departure, said he and his colleagues don’t want to be in the streets, slowing down traffic and disturbing people.

He even apologized pre-emptively for the trouble. But he said they aren’t sure what else to do.

“You know something, we’re going to lose everything. We’re going to lose [our] jobs,” he said.

“We’re going to fight for our jobs. We’re going to fight for investment in what we do.”

A retirement fund, gone

Taxi drivers argue the law would bankrupt an industry already struggling under the weight of competing ride-hailing services. They say they are most concerned about what is going to happen to their permits.

Under the existing rules, all taxis must have a permit, which cost upwards of $100,000. But the new legislation would abolish those permits, making them worthless.

Mokrine said he expects to retire in the next 10 years. Before, he planned to rent his permit to another driver in order to fund that retirement.

But if the legislation passes, he won’t have that option.

“What am I going to do? I am confused. I don’t understand how the minister [could] do that with us.”

The proposed law includes $500 million to cover the losses taxi permit holders would incur if the bill is passed, but drivers say that isn’t enough.

Yesterday, a planned meeting between the industry and the ministry was cancelled because the taxi operators didn’t think any real decision makers would be present.

Industry representatives are asking taxi operators who can’t make it to Montreal to hold events in their own regions.

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