Industry veteran was leading advocate for rights of struggling TTL owners
by Mike Beggs
A leader in battling for the rights of Toronto Taxi License (TTL) drivers, Murtuza (“Lateef”) Gowher has died.
The 52-year-old father of two passed away of a heart attack on April 2.
“We are all very sad,” says fellow TTL spokesman Imran Chowdhury.
“He was a very good friend -- a nice, hardworking guy. We worked together fighting city hall for a long time.”
A native of India, Gowher spent more than 25 years driving cab in Toronto. He was a co-founder of the (now-defunct) Toronto Taxi Drivers Forum, which maintained TTL drivers were “left behind” in the 2014 Reforms.
Last November, he lamented to Taxi News how the City and Province have dumped the responsibility for providing on-demand wheelchair accessible taxi service on to TTL plate-holders -- who alone bear the cost of these pricey converted vans, with their higher expenses. Since then, the demand for them has been minimal amongst those with disabilities and the general riding public -- and TTL drivers have faced the added burden of competing against an “insane” number of Private Transportation Company (PTC) vehicles.
According to Gowher, being tied to a TTL plate and accessible van was “worse than brutal”. He was working 14-hour days to survive.
Taxi Action president Behrouz Khamseh noted Gower’s children are of university age, and he and his wife had, “just bought a house.”
“I’m sad about it. He was a very good man,” he says.
“I think this job, it’s a very bad situation for a lot of people. It really brings on a lot stress. The City doesn’t realize the damage, or they don’t care.”
Cab driver stress was underscored again with the attempted suicide of a Quebec taxi permit holder, on March 29.
The driver slashed his wrists during a province-wide strike by cabbies protesting the proposed Bill 17, which they say would bankrupt them (by allowing open entry, and laxer rules for Private Transportation Companies like Uber and Lyft). According to The Toronto Sun, this incident took place at the end of a live TV interview with a cab owner. Police and first responders got the driver to the hospital quickly, and he was reported to have recovered.
In light of this near-tragic event, organizers called off the strike. And at a press conference, group spokesperson Abdallah Homsy said the mental health of drivers needs to be their first priority, and he invited all colleagues in mental distress to seek out help.
To date, six New York City taxi medallion holders have committed suicide since their industry’s ruination at the hands of unlimited ridesharing competition. And in the early 2000’s, 16 Dublin cab drivers took their own lives after deregulation saturated Dublin’s streets with taxis.