The debate over alternative car services gripping city hall in Edmonton may spill over into the Alberta Legislature. According to Lobbyist Registry reports, both Uber and a union representing taxi drivers have acquired the services of well-known lobbyists to help the corporation navigate the halls of the provincial government.
Impact Consulting principal Elan MacDonald is registered as a lobbyist for Uber, with listed activities including lobbying the departments of Transportation, Treasury Board and Finance, and Municipal Affairs with respect to ride sharing, licensing and insurance policy directives. Also working for Impact, though not mentioned in the lobbyist listing, is Brookes Merritt, a former communications director for the Alberta NDP Caucus.
Teamsters Union Local 987 has hired Alberta Counsel Ltd., which readers of this blog may recognize as the company headed by former Wildrose MLAs Shayne Saskiw and Guy Boutilier and former NDP MLA Leo Piquette (father of current NDP MLA Colin Piquette). The company recently hired former NDP Caucus outreach director Pascal Ryffel as a Senior Associate. According to their listing, the company will help the Teamsters lobby the government on many of the same issues as Uber’s lobbyists.
In May 2015, Uber Inc. registered some of its own senior employees as lobbyists in Alberta, including public policy lead Chris Schafer, who was executive director of the Calgary-based Canadian Constitutional Foundation from 2010-2014. Mr. Schafer’s successor at the CCF has taken a hard-line in favour of Uber in the pages of the National Post.
The May 2015 listing declares the company lobbying activities would focus on the Insurance Act, Traffic Safety Act, and a provincial regulatory framework for ride sharing in Alberta.
A strictly regulated taxi authority in Edmonton has posed difficulties for Uber expansion into the capital city. Edmonton City Councillors are expected to discuss a draft by-law about this issue on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.
Although the NDP government has not taken a public position on the expansion Uber in Alberta, Transportation Minister Brian Mason has expressed concern about whether the company’s drivers carry proper commercial insurance coverage.