Uber rep dodges councillors' questions at committee meeting

Uber’s public policy manager was grilled by city councillors at a special meeting of the community and protective services committee that committee chair Coun. Diane Deans said could drag well into the weekend.

Uber’s Chris Schafer was the first on a long list to make a presentation to councillors. The list was at 85 before the meeting began and topped 100 soon after.

In two and a half hours in front of the microphone, Mr. Schafer exasperated some councillors with indirect answers to what might seem like simple questions. He never did answer, for instance, when Coun. Riley Brockington asked how many Uber drivers are on city streets.

Mr. Brockington also had issues with Uber’s arrival in Ottawa.

“Weren’t you asked not to operate illegally? And chose to operate anyway?” he asked.

When Mr. Schafer said it was Uber’s “full intention” to comply with all regulations passed by council, Mr. Brockington said he would hold Uber to that promise.

Coun. Michael Qaqish told Mr. Schafer Uber’s Ottawa launch left a bad taste in his mouth and wondered what the ride share service would do to restore trust.

Mr. Schafer said Uber is a good corporate citizen, pointing to its practice of donating surge price profits in times of declared emergencies.

Mr. Schafer’s presentation left Coun. Stephen Blais wondering aloud why Uber sent a representative with no data on complaints, driver incidents and suspensions.

Council also heard from taxi, ride share and hotel industry representatives in a meeting that showed no signs of stopping more than seven hours after it began.

- with files from Emma Jackson