Debit card scam
The arrest of suspects in the ongoing debit card scam being committed in Toronto taxicabs is welcome news. The fact that there are still people out there stealing information and money from customer credit cards is deeply troubling for an industry reeling from City-backed unfair competition from app-based ride providers.
While the suspects arrested to date have never been legal taxi drivers, other media have been too ignorant or lazy to correct initial reports that it was legal cab drivers committing these crimes. The public has been given a false impression about real taxicab drivers and nothing is being done to set the record straight.
That said, we still cannot evade the question of how these phonies were able to drive legally licensed taxis. There is some heavy duty explaining to do on the part of some taxi agents and/or owners. If some need to be booted from the industry, or even prosecuted, then so be it. They are a cancer that needs to be excised for the health of the whole. We will shed no tears for them.
Of course, we can legitimately speculate on their motives, when so many are desperate for money in a deregulated market where licensed taxis sit idle in garage parking lots and so many taxi plates now sit idle on a shelf at the regulator’s office. Clearly, some agents or owners are letting anyone willing to pay a few bucks drive their cars.
The root cause of that bad decision lies directly in the lap of the City that has allowed some 70,000 untrained and unregulated drivers to register with app-based dispatch companies. It is beyond time for the City to accept responsibility and act to remedy a horrible wrong.
We’ll also question why police have reportedly spurned repeated offers of material assistance from legitimate taxi operators who have assisted in any way they were asked right from the start of this case. Perhaps police could try to understand that no one knows taxis and taxi people better than the people in the taxi business who are eager to help keep their industry clean.
So while we applaud getting some of the bad people off the street, we continue to urge swift and effective action in solving the immediate problem while correcting the long-term root causes.
Going through minutes from the first meeting of the new version of the committee overseeing licensing, now named General Government and Licensing, we noted a potentially deeply troubling report.
Most of you now know about the ongoing review of taxi industry regulations. You many not know that other business licensing areas are being reviewed by Municipal Licensing and Standards staff.
This includes the Toronto Licensing Tribunal.
Here is what the MLS staff report says: “MLS is undertaking a review of the Toronto Licensing Tribunal (TLT). The TLT, whose powers are set out in Chapter 545-3, operates as in independent quasi-judicial body that conducts hearings and has the authority to approve, refuse, suspend, revoke or place conditions on business licenses. The review will include identifying opportunities for modernization and improving the TLT and its processes.”
The MLS staff report is anticipated in the 4th quarter of 2019.
Our question is: Where the hell does MLS get off reviewing this quasi-judicial body in the first place? Does the TLT now report to MLS? We can see Court Services taking a look at things. We can see outside judicial experts or even City Councillors with legal experience doing this review. We do not, under any circumstances, see MLS “reviewing” the TLT.
We can see MLS making deputations and recommendations just like any other interested party, but absolutely not, under any circumstances, conducting the review itself.
Or is the City saying the TLT is simply a rubber stamp for MLS? Is it there to make life easy for MLS staff or to do MLS’s bidding? You can’t be a little bit pregnant. If the TLT is independent, keep it so. If it is an arm of MLS, let us know and we will adjust our thinking about the integrity of Council, the TLT and its members, MLS staff and judicial processes accordingly.
We say at this point to GG&L, this really needs to be fixed. It is deeply disappointing that it has gotten this far without being recognized as the obvious conflict of interest it is.