Industry’s only recourse against 60 years of regulatory abuse is legal action
By Gerald H. Manley
To the editor,
Although the City of Toronto for the past five or six decades has been guilty of using its taxi industry as an employment social welfare net, the industry membership must take some of the responsibility for the path the industry has followed.
Over the past 44-plus years that I have been a member of the taxi industry mostly as an owner/operator, I have watched the professionalism of the industry slowly decay from within, where many of our issues might have been resolved if we had portrayed ourselves as specialized, qualified, proficient and skilled members of our trade.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, I was unable to drive one of my regular customers and she had to call one of the better-known taxi companies for service. Over 20 minutes elapsed before the taxi showed up and she noticed right away that the vehicle was dirty on the outside. When she got into the car, she found it dirty inside, the driver was unkempt and lacked personal hygiene.
The fare originated in the Don Mills Road and Gateway Boulevard area and she wanted to be taken to the Toronto East General Hospital, or as it is known now, the Michael Garron Hospital, at 825 Coxwell Avenue. This hospital is approximately 4.6 kilometers away and takes about eight minutes to get to from the pick-up location, but the driver did not know where the hospital was and needed direction from her on how to get there.
She asked the driver how long he had been driving taxi in Toronto and he said for the past several years, yet he did not know where a major hospital is! So much for our membership asking for the City’s taxi school to be re-opened as it, in my opinion, did nothing for this driver or most of the other drivers that allegedly passed the course at the taxi school. You either learn this job behind the wheel of your taxi and retain information or you don’t and that can never be taught in a classroom.
Now add this lack of effort from many of our drivers, to the ones who only verbally complain while sitting on a post; inside a coffee shop or at the family dinner table about the unfairness in the industry, yet would not spend one penny of their resources or one second of their time to contact the City’s bureaucrats or politicians and outline what they feel is wrong with the taxi industry and come up with some viable solutions to correct the problems.
Some of the taxi industry membership appear to believe that the self-appointed industry representative groups that are now meeting collectively in an attempt to show a united front at city hall – groups which in reality do not represent the vast majority of the industry’s membership – will be successful in resolving the many outstanding issues we face.
The industry’s alleged representatives appear more interested in having in-car cameras installed in PTC vehicles and have them register their HST numbers with the Toronto City Hall, rather than dealing with issues that will better our industry and put some of the money we have lost back in the drivers’ pockets.
Since the in-car cameras are not mandated for the City’s limousine fleet and PTC companies operate the exact same way, it is doubtful, even though a good idea, that this will happen.
Since the HST comes from the federal Excise Tax Act and is administered through Revenue Canada, which is part of the federal Ministry of Finance, it is questionable if it would be legal to gather that information by a municipality and why would they bother since no municipality would have the authority to enforce the Act to ensure the tax is being remitted?
Toronto tried several years ago to have the taxi industry file their HST numbers and were told they could not ask for those numbers and I doubt whether that has changed over the years. Leave federal issues to the federal government as there are enough problems contained in the vehicle-for-hire bylaw that need attention and that do come under the City’s authorities.
City politicians and bureaucrats are masters at deception and how to divide and conquer our industry and from time to time, there are reports of varying types that come out of city hall that are like the promises given by councillors, which are only an olive leaf that is offered giving the appearance that something major will be done to improve our industry’s plight, but in reality, they do little if anything to help our concerns.
As an example of a misleading report, you need only to read a briefing note written by Mr. Rod Jones, Director of Bylaw Enforcement for the MLS dated April 4, 2017 outlining the top 10 complaints from the public and the top 10 charges by bylaw enforcement for the first three months of 2017.
After going over this note a couple of times, I just about fell off of my chair with laughter, as it has been a very long time since I have read such b.s. politically correct conclusions as contained in this report.
I find the following three points under the top 10 complaints from the public hard to believe:
a) There were no complaints or no enforcement for the approximately 1,200-plus limos in the City?
b) There were 166 complaints against the 10,000-plus members in the taxi industry?
c) There were only 6 complaints against the estimated 39,000-plus Uber drivers?
If you take the top 10 charges by bylaw enforcement, which was 252 during the period of January 1, 2017 to March 31, 2017 and divide them by the approximate 10 bylaw inspectors that enforce the City’s vehicle-for-hire bylaw, that works out to just over 2 charges per week by each inspector that were laid from the top 10 list and that does not come anywhere near the required enforcement that would deter these offences from being committed regularly in the future. If this is all that is done in the top 10 charges of bylaw enforcement, it is probable that there is even less done outside of this list.
Without the legal authority to stop any vehicle named in the vehicle-for-hire bylaw, perhaps Mr. Jones should explain how he and his department intends to enforce the bylaw on about 50,000 vehicles, plus investigate and resolve all citizens’ complaints surrounding it with approximately 10 inspectors detailed to this endeavor.
It is well overdue that the membership in the Toronto taxi industry accept the last 55-plus years of receiving no fair political or bureaucratic answers to correct our many problems and move on to the only viable possibility of making the City and the Province accountable for their actions, which is to:
1. Apply for an injunction to quash the Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 546, Licensing of Vehicles-For-Hire, which must be done prior to July 15, 2017, the first anniversary of this bylaw.
2. Begin a class action lawsuit against both the City and the Province for violating both their social contract obligations and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Equality Rights.
This will require a great deal of money, but those resources need not to be paid all up front if the industry begins a fund to collect from each taxi industry member, a small monthly payment that will become part of a fund where we will always have the financial resources to take government to court if they fail to create a fair and level playing field for all.
Gerald H. Manley