The sorry truth
Surprised? No. Disappointed? Absolutely.
Council’s latest actions revising the For-Hire-Vehicle bylaw, frankly, lived up to our expectations. City staff and most Councillors, led by Mayor Tory, once again demonstrated they had absolutely zero concern for the thousands of taxicab drivers and owners who have devoted their lives to serving the people and visitors to our city.
Remember the time when Council kept saying taxis were important to the city, that you were front line ambassadors, crucial to presenting a good impression to visitors and critical in providing top level service to taxi users at a price that was fair to both passengers and the driver?
Apparently those sentiments were merely pious, self-serving nonsense. These people have no respect for you or the job you do. You are interchangeable, disposable pawns to be sacrificed at will without thought or consideration. If you are a big foreign company that resisted even paying taxes in this country, that was willing (eager!) to ignore all City laws and the damage it was causing to established industries and the public, throw a bunch of money at the City and the powers that be will fold like tissue paper.
Remember back in 2015/16 when Toronto politicians and bureaucrats promised a “transparent” open and whatever review of the taxi bylaws? We all know that review was nothing of the sort, with surprise after surprise dropped on an industry that was already reeling from, many say, incompetent regulation, with Uber (at the start) getting just about everything it asked for and taxi problems both ignored and made incomparably worse. One gets the feeling the fix was already in, that the City had no intention of helping taxis and in fact would do all it could to make life worse for taxis.
Only when they were caught with their pants down by an incompetent driver who caused the death of a passenger did Council and City staff grudgingly, and indirectly, acknowledge they made a possible blunder by cancelling taxi driver training. So some form of training will be reinstituted. Better than nothing, we suppose. But will that training be uniform for all VFH drivers? We will have to wait and see.
Only when Federal tax authorities laid down the law did these Private Transportation Companies actually start to pay their fair share in Canadian taxes. Only lately did Mississauga tell all PTC drivers they had to have GST numbers and submit taxes. Toronto still, astonishingly, has not taken that step as a precondition of licensing. We wonder why not? Oh, perhaps it would upset Uber so they won’t do it? (Just speculating, of course.)
Just lately we are starting to see Uber and other PTC drivers appear before the Toronto Licensing Tribunal. We’re still not sure they are being subjected to bylaw charges when warranted. But for far too long the City abrogated its regulatory responsibilities by handing enforcement over to the PTCs instead of City enforcement officers, police and the courts. So passengers faced the great unknown about who was driving a PTC vehicle. A bad or abusive driver could get kicked off the Uber platform, then the next day start driving for, for example, Lyft, with an absolutely clean license record. Yet City officials say they care about passenger safety. Right. They just want the 30 cents a ride.
Now the City of Mississauga has been served notice it is being sued for its role in destroying the livelihoods of its’ taxi industry participants. The Mississauga industry is joining a lengthening list of jurisdictions, including Toronto, being forced to defend their actions in throwing open the doors to disruptive and grossly unfair competition.
We believe affected industries are using the courts as a last ditch attempt to save their investments and careers. It is wonderful to see that people still have faith they will at least get a fair hearing in a courtroom, unlike at City Halls. But there is also a certain underlying acknowledgement that these massively expensive court cases, despite what the industries believe are solid, fact and law-based arguments, still come down to what a Judge (or judges) decide. There are no “slam dunks” in court.
Nevertheless, we wish these people suing the cities well.