On Mayor Nenshi's comments about Uber

Post Date: Saturday, April 23, 2016

The following is a statement from Mayor Naheed Nenshi:

It looks like there is a lot of interest in a video that was filmed of me in a cab in Boston. Who knew I'd have my very own episode of Taxicab Confessions? I should have stuck with Carpool Karaoke.

In any case, when I travel to places where ridesharing is legal, I often use services like Uber and Lyft, specifically so I can talk with the drivers and better understand their job and their understanding of the regulatory environment under which they operate. For example, I always ask about their insurance, the number of hours they drive, and how much they have to pay as a driver versus what the ridesharing company pays. This has helped me a lot with my on-the-ground knowledge as the City has been working on developing its own rules.

I take my cues from the drivers and see how much they want to talk. I always identify myself and tell them a little bit about the ridesharing situation in Calgary so they don't think I'm trying to get information under false pretences. In this case, I had a free-flowing casual conversation with the driver. I was not aware that this driver was live broadcasting our discussion on the Internet, and he certainly didn’t have my consent to do so.

I told him the story, repeating what I have said many times publicly: that Calgary’s rideshare regulations are not unreasonable, and that Uber, in particular has been very difficult to deal with. I've called them "jerks" publicly in the past, but this time I used a more colourful term. As a guy who very rarely swears, this is probably as rude as I get, but it still wasn't very nice or civil of me. I apologize to Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, and his employees for my being, well, a jerk.

There is a more important issue, though, and I want to clarify. The City has always taken the position that all drivers for transportation network companies, such as Uber, should be subject to background checks conducted by the Calgary Police Service. This is the same background check that is used for taxi drivers and by many non-profit organizations in Calgary. It will identify people who have charges pending and have been pardoned for sexual offences. In my opinion, Uber's system is simply isn't good enough to ensure people's safety. Indeed, Uber recently settled a case in California for $25 million for making statements about its background checks that were not true.

As I announced publicly earlier this year, the City became aware of at least one driver who passed through the background check used by Uber in Calgary despite having an active assault charge against him or her. This is the extent of my knowledge on the matter. I am not aware of anyone convicted of a sexual offence clearing the background check used by Uber in Calgary. Watching the video, I realize that I did not explain myself clearly at all. I apologize for any confusion that I have caused.

As I said in the video, I don't know -- nor should I know -- how the City found out about the person who had passed through the check. However, as a regulator we must regulate. We must ensure public safety. That's why we require vehicle inspections, that's why we do spot checks, and that's how we develop policy on issues like background checks. I think the public would demand no less of us.

Finally, a number of people have suggested that the law in Massachusetts doesn't allow someone to record someone else without their consent. Be that as it may, that's not the point. One should be the same person in private as in public and I take full responsibility for my interaction with others.