Tell it like it is
We are again approaching a watershed moment in the sorry history of ground transportation regulation in the Greater Toronto Area.
We’ll start with congratulating European Court of Justice Advocate General Maciej Szpunar on his non-binding opinion that “While innovative, the Uber electronic platform falls within the field of transport, and it must obtain the necessary licenses and authorizations under national law.
“Uber controls the price of its service, imposes conditions on its drivers, and can exclude them from the service,” he said. “All these features mean that Uber cannot be regarded as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers… The service amounts to the organization, and management of a comprehensive system for on-demand urban transport.”
This is crucially important as the EJC will decide this fall on how Uber is to be perceived. If Uber is ruled to be a transportation company, which to us is a blindingly obvious conclusion, it could lose price advantages over taxis and perhaps even be barred outright.
In Mississauga a proposal to add a further 250 new plates to its existing fleet is soon to be debated. In Toronto, ground transportation providers, including taxis, limousines and PTCs are waiting for a long-expected staff report on this City’s most recent “reforms” to come before Council’s Licensing and Standards Committee.
In both cities, it looks to us as if politicians are whole-heartedly pandering to Uber interests at the expense of licensed taxi companies and the drivers who rely on taxi business to feed their families.
In Mississauga, the 250 new plates proposal has come under intense and well-deserved criticism from licensed taxi companies and, perhaps more importantly, from regular cab drivers who have seen their businesses and livelihoods devastated by the advent of Uber and UberX encroaching on passenger demand for taxi service.
Mississauga politicians and bureaucrats have been told, repeatedly and in no uncertain terms by taxi experts, as well as an outside consultant that there is simply no business or economic justification to issue more licenses. They have been told that more plates are not needed. Politician statements that more plates are needed to “level the playing field” between Uber and taxis are, we’ll put it gently, utter rubbish.
After decades of successful operation, an extremely valuable consultative group, the Public Vehicle Advisory Committee was initially and inexplicably bypassed when the new issue proposal came to light.
We truly wonder what is going on in a city that we have long held to be a model for intelligent taxi regulation. This situation sure doesn’t pass any smell test we can think of. It stinks and an entire industry that has been governed well and effectively for decades knows it.
While the industry has been told that the proposal is off the table for now, no one in the industry believes it.
We certainly hope the voices of reason prevail.
Meanwhile in Toronto, while everyone is waiting for that staff report, no one yet knows when it will come forward or what will be in it.
We know what we hope is there, including, but not limited to, relief for the long-suffering dupes who had to take on the new Toronto Taxi License and the unsustainable costs they impose.
Put it simply: the TTL is a blueprint for financial disaster. There is no public demand for these vehicles. In fact, the public actively avoids using them, including the disabled community they are ostensibly there to serve.
We recall Municipal Licensing and Standard Executive Director Tracey Cook saying if a mistake is made, it can be corrected later. That comment makes no provision for accountability for a despicable decision or for recompense for the suckers driven into penury by the idea foisted on them by bureaucrats and politicians who know nothing about the industry they govern.
Does no one recall the Toronto A la Carte debacle? Those who are suckered into the program are left holding the bag. In both Mississauga and Toronto the aim apparently is to keep cab people, drivers and owners, as poor as possible while continuing to slave as cash cows for city government.
While the Drivers on the Waiting List class action suit is now officially defunct, people are again seriously calling for a new class action suit to be filed against the city. We don’t know if this is the way to go, but it is perhaps worthy of serious consideration.
We do suggest taxi people start actively working against those City councilors who voted for the most recent reforms. Hit them where it hurts. The ballot box.