But will they listen?
We are delighted to see the City has published a meetings and topics schedule for the long-awaited, long-overdue review of the 2016 changes to the Vehicle-for-Hire bylaws.
The consultations, a series of nine two-hour meetings with all interested industry stakeholders invited to discuss specific topics, begin Monday September 17 and go through to Wednesday October 3rd.
Topics to be discussed are: Toronto Taxicab Licenses, PTC Drivers, PTC Companies, Accessibility, Brokerages, Fleets and Garages, Standard Taxi Owners, General Public, Limousine, and Taxi Drivers.
In a huge, very welcome, departure from past practice, it is expected these consultations will eventually produce recommendations for “addressing new and/or outstanding issues.”
Industry stakeholders are asked to participate in this review at meetings in person and with written submissions sent to the City online.
While the vast majority in the taxi and limousine industries eagerly awaits the start of the review, we do have concerns.
What is the deal with meetings with stakeholders lasting only two hours? Is the City trying to limit discussions? We strongly suspect a lot of people will want to come forward with opinions, or to vent their anger, frustration and despair over the vile circumstances the City has placed them in. A two hour meeting is, we strongly believe, not going to be anywhere nearly long enough for all to get their opinions and suggestions heard.
More important, however, is the bitter experience of history with the City’s consultations. Classic is the review process of 2015/16 that led to the current disaster. Months of the review process went on, with meeting after meeting, huge numbers of deputations, voices heard and suggestions made on topics of immediate and long-term concern to the industry.
The result, at the very last meeting, was Municipal Licensing and Standards Executive Director Tracey Cook announcing surprise and radical plans to revolutionize the industry (the TTL, etc). Industry input on these ideas was precisely zero. Industry concerns addressed were precisely zero. As far as most were and are concerned the whole exercise was a waste of time. That review was the exact opposite of a promised “open and transparent” process. We strongly believe the decisions were made beforehand and the whole expensive, time-consuming process was window dressing to satisfy legal needs.
Is that what this is going to be? A repeat of the 2015/16 experience? We sincerely hope not. Maybe, just maybe, our City staff has started to understand the damage they’ve done and might actually want to work with you to try to solve some of the problems. A novel thought, but who knows?
Staff may be aware of what other, ethical, cities in Canada and around the world are doing to alleviate the damage ill-considered ride-sharing polices created, like Kingston, Ontario and New York City moving to limit the numbers of app-based vehicles in service, and the Province of Quebec and some places in Australia financially compensating taxicab operators for loss of business.
Staff may be aware of recent European and American court and labor tribunal decisions stating app-based dispatching is a taxi service by another name, and these services (and drivers) can be regulated, as are taxis.
Staff may also be aware of the real safety concerns with some app-dispatched drivers and cars, exemplified by a young man who was killed when, allegedly, an Uber driver illegally pulled into traffic. His grieving mother addressed the Licensing and Standards Committee recently and, referring to the City abandoning vehicle safety checks, asked pointedly, “Who thought this was a good idea?”
We know the answer to that question: Municipal Licensing and Standards staff who made the recommendation and know-nothing-City-councilors who stupidly abdicated their responsibilities to the public and went along with it.
There are contradictions and possible illegalities in the present law that should also be raised and we hope they are. For example, some vans providing accessible service need Vehicle for Hire licenses, and others do not. Why not one rule for all?
One thing we suggest is for those participating to clearly state problems and suggest ways to solve them. We suspect potential solutions might be welcomed, if the bureaucrats who created this mess are actually willing to listen for a change.