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Quebec taxi industry loses injunction battle against Uber

Taxi drivers take part in an anti-Uber protest at Trudeau Airport in Montreal on Feb. 10, 2016.

Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The taxi industry's attempt to stymie Uber's entry into Quebec suffered a blow Tuesday after a judge rejected the cabbies' request for a temporary injunction against the ride-hailing company.

Taxi drivers wanted the injunction to prevent Uber and the government from implementing an agreement for a one-year pilot project that would allow the firm to operate legally in the province.

Lawyers for the taxi industry argued that Transport Minister Laurent Lessard exceeded his powers in his negotiations with Uber on the project, which would see the company operate without being subject to the same licence system that exists for cabbies.

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Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Deziel said Tuesday there wasn't enough evidence to justify immediate action against Uber or the pilot project, which is expected to take effect shortly.

Additionally, he noted that jurisprudence states "a ministerial decision is presumed to be in the interest of the public."

He said he would prefer to listen to arguments from Uber and the taxi industry before ruling on the legality of the pilot project.

Both sides return to court in January.

But the taxi industry's lawyer, Marc-Antoine Cloutier, said he will argue again Thursday for an injunction.

He said the deal is not yet in force and Uber's current operations in Quebec are therefore illegal.

"Uber recognizes that since Sept. 8 it has been acting like a taxi service," Cloutier said. "They don't have any permits and everyone knows it. There is no pilot project. Someone needs to explain why this company continues to drive people around when they don't have the right to do so."

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Under the agreement, Uber will be granted the equivalent of 300 taxi permits, but will also pay taxes in addition to collecting federal and provincial sales tax and contribute to a fund to help modernize the taxi industry.

Uber drivers must abide by several other regulations but won't have to rent or purchase traditional permits, which cost cab drivers upward of $200,000 if a car is included in the price.

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