Uber’s rabbit hole
In late August Toronto faced the tragedy of an Uber driver mowing down pedestrians walking on a downtown sidewalk, injuring several and sending an infant in a stroller to hospital. The driver reportedly has been charged, but that is small comfort for the injured.
This, of course, is on top of the death of Nicholas Cameron last year in an Uber vehicle. As well, there are too many documented cases of sexual and other assaults committed by these app-based drivers for anyone but politicians to ignore.
Yet some at city hall, led by our stalwart Mayor John Tory, did their best to derail calls to reinstitute training for For-Hire-Vehicle licensees. This resistance, of course, was at the behest of Uber and Lyft and other app-based dispatchers who continue to peddle the fiction that they are technology, not taxi companies.
Labor authorities worldwide are increasingly not falling for the “they’re not employees” nonsense, and are allowing Uber drivers to organize unions. We hear there is even an effort in the Toronto area to organize these drivers.
The Canada Revenue agency, again over Uber objections and lobbying, finally has (belatedly) demanded GST be collected and remitted on all Uber, Lyft, etc. fares. We do wonder how many of these drivers have obtained their GST/HST numbers. In fairness, we also wonder how many taxi drivers do the same. We’ve repeatedly warned about this in the past. We simply do not understand why all applicants for new and renewal licenses don’t have to show proof of tax registration.
Then there are the grossly exorbitant fees charged to taxi people, to drivers and owners. A cab owner who also drives his own taxi has to pay double, once to renew the taxi license and again to have the dubious privilege of actually working it. If there is logic there other than pure greed, we don’t see it.
Now Saskatoon has joined the ranks of Canadian cities being subjected to class action lawsuits from brutalized taxi industries.
Why do the politicians ignore the blindingly obvious problems with these apparently out-of-control app-dispatch companies? Simple. Millions of dollars a year in “found” money at 30 and now 40 cents a ride. Never mind that the Municipal Act and court cases require money collected from a license category to be spent on that license category. But it is money there for the taking and City Hall is happy to flagrantly break the law and spend it on anything except enforcement against the app-based cars. They simply do not care about passenger and driver safety. They won’t until they get hit by millions of dollars in damages if and when the courts decide they have been grossly negligent.
So City Hall will happily ride the gravy train until the whole thing comes crashing down. We ask a simple question: How long can Uber, for example, continue to lose a reported $6 billion in half a year, on top of all the other billions it has burned through? How long will investors put up with seeing their money flushed down a rabbit hole?
Should anyone wonder about the human cost of City Hall negligence, please read about the Weisbarts in this issue of the paper. 50 years of devoting their lives to the taxi industry and the city’s people and visitors, working 12-14 hours a day for six and sometimes seven days a week, winding up owning two taxi plates, only to see their retirement income slashed to about $500 a month. We hope their story makes Mayor Tory and his sycophants at City Hall so very proud of themselves.
All the taxi industry has ever wanted is an opportunity to compete fairly with new competition and new technologies. City Hall has deliberately created a very unfair competitive environment. The advent of a new app to compete directly with the Ubers and Lyfts is coming out later in September, developed by taxi people. It may help in the long run. We hope so.
Finally, September is upon us and kids are going back to school.
This merits a heads up that kids do not always stop at stop signs or obey traffic signals. They also walk and text just like mindless adults, blithely unaware they may be charging into live traffic lanes.
That puts a special responsibility on drivers, and we’d argue, particularly professional taxi drivers, to be hyper aware of their surroundings, particularly near and around schools. Please be careful out there!