WINNIPEG -- A heated debate got underway Monday night at the Manitoba legislature where committee hearings began for Bill 30, which would give Winnipeg a mandate to create bylaws allowing Uber to operate in the city while dissolving the taxicab board.
More than 160 people were scheduled to speak to the bill, ranging from private citizens to labour representatives to representatives of the ride-sharing company from Toronto.
It has been a contentious issue, with Mayor Brian Bowman, who is in favour of bringing ride-sharing to the city, alleging a member of the taxi industry made a threat against him.
Uber representatives presented a petition of support with more than 11,000 signatures, saying that shows a lot of people in Winnipeg are in support of the idea.
"We operate in cities across Canada,'' said Chris Shafer of Uber. "In fact, Winnipeg has the advantage of learning from what other cities have done in terms of regulating the ride-sharing industry.''
But not everyone backs the Conservative-sponsored bill, and NDP Leader Wab Kinew recently stood with cab owners on the steps of the legislature.
He said cab owners should be compensated once Uber is allowed in the province, and wants provisions in the legislation making sure ride-sharing companies follow the same rules and regulations as taxis.
Taxi drivers also crowded into Monday's meeting to voice their opposition to ride-sharing.
"This is a law that simply, at the stroke of a pen, eliminates an industry,'' said Scott McFadyen of the Winnipeg Community Taxi Coalition.
He said the taxi industry is simply superior to ride-sharing: "Taxi drivers require a shield, a camera, extensive training, criminal background check, child abuse registry, vehicleinspections.''