Fighting the good fight
Two quick things as a start:
First, Taxi News fully supports efforts to require all taxi and PTC drivers and companies to provide proof of GST/HST registration at the time of license issuance and renewal. This is only fair, and it has been a puzzle to us that the City did not impose this requirement when the GST/HST was first imposed.
Second, we have seen a major mistake made by both a City councillor and a major print news organization recently. Fact: brokerages and PTCs can set fares if they notify consumers in advance, but independents cannot set fares and must use a City-mandated tariff structure. Unfortunately, not all reporters and City councillors are aware of this basic fact of the newly reconfigured vehicle-for-hire trade in Toronto.
While civil disobedience is a long-treasured tactic when protesting unjust laws, and while we understand the motivations and certainly sympathize with the cause, we as a newspaper cannot legally recommend using this tactic when the courts have consistently ruled against the practice.
That said, we have to applaud the determined stand of one outspoken taxi operator who has repeatedly stated he will not pay City licensing fees he believes to be fundamentally unjust and illegally imposed. And he openly invites the City to take legal action against him.
Taxi owner/operator Gerry Manley is famous for writing many detailed letters to all levels of government expounding on his grievances, asking difficult questions, demanding both answers and fundamental changes to how the for-hire-vehicle business is treated and regulated. Truth be told, he reflects the view of many, if not most in the taxi industry in Toronto, though others are not nearly as outspoken about it.
We asked Manley a few questions, starting with what he hopes to achieve.
He replied, “To achieve fairness for everyone in the Toronto taxi industry.”
Does he ever feel lonely in his efforts? Answer: “Yes, I do. Everyone I talk to is like a politician, they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.”
He understands TN’s position on not editorially supporting his civil disobedience and ostensibly breaking the law, but he also says, “It’s not us that’s breaking the law. It’s the City of Toronto that’s breaking the law. It’s up to us to stand up for our rights. They’re violating our Charter rights.”
Does he have a short list of major concerns or issues? Well, he is about to fire off another letter listing 24 issues relating to taxis he feels need to be addressed.
Pressed for an abbreviated list, he comes up with, “Cancel the vehicle-for-hire Bylaw in its entirety,” bring back a proper license issuing formula, restart the City’s vehicle mechanical fitness inspections, force all taxis to be equipped with point of sale terminals, plus create a web site that informs the industry, and City staff, of policy and law changes so the industry knows what is going on. (He says that after speaking numerous times with City staff, too often even they don’t know what is up to date and what is not applicable any more.)
Also he’d like to see strict requirements for proof of insurance and police background checks along with thorough vehicle inspections. “Aren’t they important?” he asks, pointedly.
He says he will not pay the new $130 per year Drivers Fee taxi owners are supposed to cough up for the right to drive their own taxicab, for which they already pay an annual license fee in excess of $1,000. Does any other business licence holder in Toronto have to pay a business license fee, and then pay another fee to be an active proprietor of that business? No. We do have to wonder hugely at the City’s rationale for this blatant and utterly unjust money grab.
He also laughs at the situation, saying he has received more responses from the City Ombudsman’s office over his concerns than he has from city, provincial and federal politicians, and city staff.
Manley says that, legally, politicians don’t have to respond to citizen complaints, but bureaucrats do, which is why he is somewhat encouraged by getting responses from the Ombudsman.
We worry Manley’s battle with city hall may not end well, but we can’t help wishing more people were as active and passionate about the industry’s future.