When will City of Toronto wake up?
When Uber’s largest European marketplace, London, England, announces the app-based taxi dispatch company is not having its license renewed, it has to be a wake-up call for every other jurisdiction in the world.
Of course there will be appeals from Uber’s battalion of lawyers, but, frankly, we see those appeals as irrelevant.
As well, Uber drivers now have the right to receive overtime and holiday pay (this ruling is under appeal), with the judges saying it was “faintly ridiculous” for Uber to argue it was simply an app platform and not a taxi service.
To add insult to injury, the Province of Quebec has imposed training requirements on Uber drivers. Uber has responded by threatening to pull out of the Quebec market if those rules are enforced, a blatantly obvious and utterly unacceptable attempt to blackmail that government into relenting— to which most people in the taxi business are no doubt inclined to respond, good riddance to Uber.
Uber has been forced to cease operations or has been banned outright in whole countries like Denmark, Bulgaria, and Hungary (and possibly Italy) and other smaller jurisdictions like Australia’s Northern Territories, Alaska, Oregon (except for Portland) and Vancouver due to its intransigence and apparent inability to work within the rule of law.
A growing number of jurisdictions are, belatedly, waking up to just how gawd-awful Uber’s business model is, and how it undermines not only traditional law-abiding taxi businesses but also, more importantly, the broader public interest. That is, except in Toronto, where our politicians and bureaucrats are doing their best to ignore what minimal rules govern Uber operations while continuing to harass licensed taxis for minor offenses. For a minor example, when was the last time anyone saw a mandatory Uber sticker on an Uber-affiliated vehicle?
The simple fact is Uber is belatedly learning that responsible corporate behavior is not only desirable, but also imperative, in today’s world. Treating laws and simple ethics as merely guidelines to be followed at will is not acceptable.
Yes, Uber has a new president who seems more willing to deal with legitimate concerns about how the company operates, both internally and externally. But those efforts may well be too little, too late. Even Uber investors, who have sunken billions into the outfit, apparently are getting a bit queasy about the rate at which the company is losing money, it’s ongoing legal problems and the continuing series of extremely black eyes it is getting from a once-sycophantic media.
Toronto’s powers that be still apparently think Uber is just wonderful, contrary to just about every metric conceivable. We have no clue about Toronto’s rationale behind its continued support for Uber. We can only guess that London’s government is smarter than Toronto’s, and cares more about little things like rider safety and the rule of law.
Meanwhile we are still waiting for a Municipal Licensing and Standards report assessing the effects of the most recent changes to the City’s licensing bylaws. It was supposed to be brought forward in September. We have not heard a word about when it will eventually be presented. Just as troubling, we have not heard from the politicians who ordered the report in the first place. We’ve got to start asking why the deafening silence?
It is also time for the City to come clean on how much Uber is contributing to MLS coffers, keeping in mind it is illegal under the Municipal Act for money collected from any license category to be spent on anything but that license category.
The simple fact is that the traditional taxi businesses of this city have been devastated by unfair, City-sanctioned competition that apparently cares not a whit about the damage it causes to anyone. Taxicab drivers, already among the poorest of the working poor in this city, are being pushed to the wall by City naïveté and/or deliberate complicity in this ongoing tragedy.
The shame and blame belong solely to the politicians and bureaucrats who created this mess. It is up to them to solve, sooner rather than later, the problems they created.