The phrase ‘Open for Business’, and why politicians should stop saying it if they don’t believe it

I’ve been following the anti-Uber backlash in Toronto for a while now, and with a bit of interest. As any resident in St. Catharines who ventures into downtown on a Friday or Saturday night will know, it can be tough to find a cab. We’ve finally convinced the Police Services Board to try a pilot project to allow cabs from other jurisdictions into downtown during those busy periods, and although I’m hopeful it will take some of the strain off at 2am, other options need to be available for people.

It’s with that in mind that I find this article so confusing. Why are Canadian community leaders – the same people who boast about having ‘Open for Business’ approaches – trying to shut down one of the most innovative businesses in existence right now? Uber takes advantage of emerging technology (not even really emerging, actually – smartphones have been around for a while now) to connect people to the ride they need. Why is this so frightening?

I understand the entrenched forces that like the status quo. Taxi companies, if they are lucky enough to be established with licenses, have a monopoly. You want a ride, there is a limited number of companies you can call. You don’t like it, lump it. But that’s exactly why a company like Uber should be allowed to operate; residents want choice, and are willing to accept the “risks” (quotes used because, as the article points out, those risks are either unproven or overblown) to have that choice. Isn’t it about time we allowed residents that ability?

I understand why the taxi companies are arguing their point in the way they are – you have to protect your turf. In this case, and in many others, however, I don’t understand why politicians aren’t standing up for what’s better for the community.