Have a great summer
It is beyond us to understand how we can begin to take the latest “report” out of Municipal Licensing and Standards staff seriously.
After months of so-called consultations with the taxi industry, the PTC industry, and limousine operators, the disabled community and the general public, this is the best they can come up with? Really?
It is full of vague generalities, non-specific goals, flat out incorrect information, simple math that does not add up and assumptions that are simply beyond belief.
Beyond doubt the limousine people are delighted with the results. They are getting reforms they have been fruitlessly asking for over about 25 years of meetings and deputations. For this relatively small group, these reforms are long overdue and very welcome. We do support them.
But taxis are an entirely different matter. Effectively, there is nothing in the report that will better the situation for Toronto’s taxis and many of the recommendations make things substantially worse.
Start with foisting of the costs and challenges of transporting the disabled on to the for-hire-vehicle sector, and their passengers, exclusively. We totally agree this is a necessary service that is for the good of all of our society. But if that is true, then all of society, not just a tiny portion of it, should pick up the costs.
Creating a fund out of licensing fees and added charges for PTC rides, where only about half will go into actually helping pay some of the costs for some providing the service is in our view, just plain wrong. The rest of the money collected will be a kind of discretionary slush fund that MLS says it will use on vague projects and data collection initiatives, or something, apparently without Council oversight.
Making matters worse, if possible, is there are recommendations in the report that were never discussed, never even put on the agenda, for any of the “consultation” meetings held. We have no idea why City staff omits these ideas during discussions: this is not the first time staff have pulled this stunt and suspect it will not be the last.
We can only speculate that staff comes to these consultations with pre-conceived plans. They go through the motions of listening to people who do know what they are talking about, and then ignore that input.
Taxi industry participation in the latest round of consultations was minimal. Staff need look no farther than their own reflections to understand why. Why should people set aside hours of their time, present ideas and proposals and advice with the best will in the world, only to see those efforts repeatedly ignored or dismissed out of hand?
MLS staff is proposing a massive data collection process that will put a tremendous bureaucratic burden on cab companies and cab drivers. Looking a little deeper, we see these new demands to be a back door way of fairly accurately estimating driver incomes. Repeatedly told by the courts and the Canada Revenue Agency that the City has no right to get income information of cab drivers through tax returns, by compiling this new data, some relatively simple computer calculations will allow MLS to figure out how much every driver is making. Will the City demand the same kind of information from other businesses licensed by the City? Not a chance. But taxi drivers have no privacy rights, apparently.
Despite a clear definition of what a snow tire is in provincial legislation, MLS thinks it knows better and wants to redefine the term, weakening the obvious safety benefits of using true snow tires in winter, certainly helping Uber and Lyft drivers. This change puts the public directly at risk.
While driver training is to begin again, there is nothing in the report to say who is to provide this training, at what cost, for what length of time and, an omission that is beyond understanding, there isn’t even a defensive driving component of this training included in the MLS recommendations.
The report will go to City Council in July. If all goes as usual, a council that has no idea of the harm they do or its long-term ramifications will pass these recommendations.
Have a great summer.