Montreal cabbie, 77, struggles to retire as ride-hailing apps devalue taxi permits
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, December 10, 2016 9:55PM EST
Canada’s aging cab drivers fear the rise of ride-hailing apps like Uber will render their pricey government-issued operating permits worthless. Many are counting on selling them at a profit to provide a nest egg for retirement.
Nick Matsoukas, a 77-year-old Montreal taxi driver with four decades experience, has been trying to sell his permit for several months so he can retire.
“Nobody is buying,” he told CTV News. “There is no price. You can’t find anybody to buy a permit.”
Unlike operating a conventional taxi, the upfront costs to join a ride-hailing service are minimal. Usually all you need is a suitable car and a smartphone. That, plus the promise of setting your own hours, has lured away drivers who otherwise would have enthusiastically bid for Matsokas’ Montreal medallion.
“I’m 77 now and I’m working 12-hour days,” he said.
Matsoakas is not alone. More than half (57 per cent) of Canadian taxi and limousine drivers and chauffeurs are between 45 and 64 years old, according to 2015 figures from Statistics Canada.
Quebec taxi drivers are calling on the provincial government to buy back their permits. Quebec Transport minister Laurent Lessard has said he will create a committee to see what is being done in other jurisdictions.
Matsoakas says he doesn’t know how long he can wait for a potential bailout.
Cabbies and limousine drivers have long argued that they are being forced to compete at a disadvantage. The Uber drivers they share the streets with avoid paying for the expensive taxi medallions sold by cities to limit the number of fare collecting vehicles on the street.
Some have invested their life savings and mortgaged their homes to afford one, assuming the investment would appreciate over time. In Montreal, drivers have paid as much as $200,000.
San Francisco-based Uber Inc. announced Tuesday that it will relaunch in Calgary after a long and bitter bylaw battle. Uber has been given the greenlight to operate in cities in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec since arriving in Canada in 2014.
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Vanessa Lee