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Judge orders Quebec to pay over $144M to taxi permit holders for abolishing permits

A taxi indicator is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. A Superior Court Judge has ordered Quebec to pay over $144 million to several thousand former taxi permit holders in addition to legal interest and other fees as part of a class-action lawsuit against the government for doing away with taxi permits in 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — A Superior Court judge has ordered the Quebec government to pay more than $144 million to several thousand former taxi permit holders in the province.

Justice Silvana Conte ruled that the government dispossessed drivers of their property when it abolished the permit system, and didn't adequately compensate them.

Taxi drivers launched a class-action lawsuit against the government in connection with the arrival of ride-hailing company Uber, which drove down the value of their permits.

The lawsuit, authorized in 2018, accused the province of mishandling Uber's entry into the market and of expropriating the property of taxi permit holders without proper compensation.

When Quebec abolished the permit system in 2019, it gave holders a total of $874 million in compensation, but Conte said that wasn't enough because the total value of the permits before Uber's arrival was more than $1 billion.

She said the total loss to permit holders was $144 million — the difference between the government's initial compensation package in 2019 and the value of the permits.

The lawsuit also sought $1,000 in punitive damages for each member of the group but the judge denied that claim.

Bruce Johnston, a lawyer representing the cab drivers, called the ruling "historic." But he claimed that the loss of value in the permits amounted to much more than what the government gave in compensation to the drivers — and more than what the judge awarded.

Johnston says he may appeal the judge’s decision.

Before the 2019 taxi reform, each cab in the province required a permit. The provincial government limited the number of permits in each region, but allowed them to be resold, creating a secondary market and leading their value to rise to more than $200,000 in the Montreal area. Permit holders often rented them out, allowing others to drive their cabs for a fee.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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