To the editor,
(Editor’s note: This is an open letter to the Chair and Members of Mississauga’s PVAC.)
Item 3 of Resolution 0054-2017, unanimously adopted on April 12th, states as follows: “That the 250 qualified taxi drivers on the waiting list be provided, for a nominal administration fee, plates effective for the period of the Pilot Project and discussed at the April 24th, 2017 PVAC meeting.’
Quite frankly, it is hard to imagine a more ill-conceived, flagrantly irresponsible initiative, that, if implemented, will have catastrophic consequences for both the travelling public and members of the taxi industry.
In the first place, no municipality in the GTHA has issued temporary plates, certainly not in the past 60 years, for the simple reason start-up costs associated with operating a taxi are considerable. Once a plate is issued, recalling it is fraught with difficulty, not the least of which is the fact the operator is left holding the proverbial financial bag.
As for issuing as many as 250 plates in one fell swoop, the largest single issue since the freeze in September, 1970 was 34 in the year 2000. Given there are 668 standard plates, adding 250 more represents a staggering increase of 37.4 percent. How will cabbies possibly earn a living in the face of such an unconscionable glut?
It begs the question, why wasn’t the PVAC consulted prior to rendering this high-handed decision? After all, that is how taxi matters have been handled since the Committee’s inception in June, 1974. Ignoring accepted practices and procedures without first notifying stakeholders makes a mockery of principles associated with transparency and accountability.
Did it occur to members of Council that flooding the market with cabs will significantly reduce the quality of service, seeing as vehicle maintenance and driver attitude will surely suffer? Obviously not.
In my nearly 50 years association with the Mississauga taxi industry, never has such a reckless decision been rendered. Item 3 demonstrates complete disregard for the City’s cabbies, as well as a total lack of understanding regarding the nature of our business.
To suggest that members of Council have exponentially raised the misery index for hundreds of families with this resolution would be a gross understatement.
In the strongest language possible, members of the PVAC are urged to vehemently reject Item 3 of Resolution 0054-2017 by urging Council to rescind it completely.
Peter D. Pellier
To the editor,
In his Star article of April 3rd, headed: ‘Politics is derailing correct calls on transit’, Royson James wrote the following:
‘The political apparatus, once ramped up and placed in the hands of a mayor, becomes a marauding force capable of delivering the vilest conclusions in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.’
Truer words were never written, as we have discovered with the (mis)handling of the Uber file across the GTHA.
Peter D. Pellier
To the editor,
(Editor’s note: This is an open letter to Sean Fahey, Peel Municipal Advisor for Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal affairs.)
By way of introduction, I am a longstanding member of the Mississauga taxi industry. On April 12, 2017, the City of Mississauga adopted Resolution 0054-2017. Item 3 of that resolution states as follows: “That the 250 qualified taxi drivers on the waiting list be provided, for a nominal administration fee, plates effective for the period of the Pilot Project and discussed at the April 24, 2017 PVAC meeting.”
For the record, the Pilot Project referred to takes effect July 1, 2017, involving both the taxi industry and Uber, or any other transportation network company who wishes to participate. It extends for an 18 month period. The aim is to determine if Uber and cabs an co-exist. PVAC refers to the Public Vehicle Licensing Committee, in place since June, 1974. Its mandate is to deal with all taxi matters and make recommendations to Council. In this instance, Council elected to adopt the Resolution in question without first being advised by the PVAC.
As you know, the incursion of Uber in major urban centres around the world has had a significant impact on the ability of taxi operators to earn a reasonable living. Those of us in Mississauga are no exception.
Since September, 1970, Mississauga has assiduously regulated the number of cabs licenced. Commencing in 1998, a Licence Issuance Model was added to Public Vehicle Licensing Bylaw 420-04, as amended, governing that process. At no time in the past 46 years has the City issued more than 34 new licences at any one time.
The decision to issue 250 new taxi owner’s licences will completely destabilize the provision of taxi service, rendering it all but impossible to earn a reasonable living; in the process, reducing the equity in the licence to nil; and eliminating pension benefits derived by senior members of the taxi industry from the lease of their licences, after years of service. As for service to the public, it will deteriorate significantly, seeing as drivers will be unable to properly maintain their cabs, and, out of exasperation, will be less than professional in their demeanour.
It is the City’s belief deregulation will create the necessary level playing field that will enable the taxi industry to compete on an equal footing with Uber. This thinking is completely fallacious, seeing as severely flooding the market will have the exact opposite effect from that intended. At to-day’s PVAC meeting, impassioned deputations were made aimed at convincing the three members of Council present; namely, Ron Starr, (chair); Carolyn Parrish; and John Kovac, of the sheer folly in proceeding. (A decision was made to convene a special meeting of the PVAC in the near future to further discuss this matter.)
Study after study confirms the deleterious consequences of deregulation. In virtually all such instances, reregulation was necessary, but not before considerable damage had been done.
It is my belief Resolution 0054-2017, Item 3 violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the ‘security of the person’ provision, in that it violates principles of fundamental justice which require that the means used by the state to achieve a societal purpose or objective must be reasonably necessary.
Security of the person refers not just to the right to privacy of the body and its health, but also to the psychological integrity of the individual. Please be aware that the psychological well-being of hundreds of Mississauga cabbies and their families has been placed in considerable jeopardy by Resolution 0054-2017.
Under ‘over-breadth analysis’, if the state, in pursuing a legitimate objective, uses means which are broader than necessary to accomplish that objective, the principles of fundamental justice are considered violated because the individual’s security of the person rights will have been limited for no reason.
Secondly, under ‘gross proportionality’, the state is in violation of the Charter when it employs actions or legislative responses to a problem that are so extreme as to be disproportionate to any legitimate government interest. (Mississauga has 668 standard taxicabs. Clearly, adding 250 cabs constitutes gross disproportionality.)
My colleagues and I are fully cognizant the City has complete jurisdiction to licence, regulate and administer its taxi industry. That said, in doing so, it cannot contravene the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by ignoring principles of fundamental justice.
Under the circumstances, would you be willing to intervene in this matter?
Peter D. Pellier
To the editor,
This is an open letter to the Mayor and Councillors who deregulated the Toronto taxi industry.
You deserve to be seen as absurdly callous hypocrites. This city government retains full control of our industry but put no checks and balances in place to curb the ride sharing giant Uber from menacing robust and fair rivalry, and playing into its hands by hastening the taxi industry’s attrition. The termination of the City’s vehicle inspection facility is only one of many examples how the City is systematically destroying our industry!
It was appalling, the inexcusable way Uber was allowed to slip through the front gate as civic security was chased to oblivion out the back door. Terminating the very foundation of civic security in ground transportation, the taxi school and the vehicle inspections, defies both decency and logic. Stop meddling in things you know nothing about. Reinstate the safety inspections! To quote Shakespeare, “The cause craves haste.”
And to think in January 2014, MLS executive director Tracey Cook stood before a City council taxi committee, and on numerous occasion since, stating, “public safety is always at the top of our agenda’s list”.
Inevitably, sooner or later, that brazen hypocrisy will come back to haunt Ms. Cook, Mayor Tory and the Council Members but it is the taxi industry that will be forced to pay the real price of theses appalling decisions. Shame on all of you.
To the editor,
(This letter is from Hamilton taxi operator Hans Weinhold.)
Allow me to explain why, as a driver, I prefer the ‘Luddite’ version of the taxi business.
When the pukers come out, en masse, usually around the government-mandated bar closing time, I would much rather be a non-exempt cab driver than a politically favoured Uber cab driver. This is because I don’t have to rely on “pings” to let me know where the customers are. I already know where the customers are, and, go figger, that is usually where I direct my cab in pursuit of commerce.
But I have a big advantage over the Uber cabbie, at least the Uber cabbie who is mindlessly compliant with the Uber model, which dictates that they shall restrict their sphere of activity only to those who have a credit card on file, and who use their smartphone to hail a cab. (And, of course, Uber corp. and their political cronies like to play up Uber’s lack of payment flexibility as a positive, rather than the negative it really is.)
My advantage, given that I am driving a fully insured taxi, is that I can pick up anyone, regardless of whether they used a telephone, a smartphone, or a wave of the hand to hail a taxi, and remain confident that I am fully covered in the event of an accident.
Of course, it’s common knowledge by now, except in the fantasies that occupy the minds of local legislators, that all cab drivers have the same incentive... to make as much money as they can in as short a span of time as is possible.
It’s human nature.
Which means that some Uber cabbies will be enticed by the availability of the greater payment flexibility enjoyed by fully insured cab drivers. Which means, cash trips. Regardless of the insurance implications. Uber drivers have an incentive to evade and avoid the “business model” that Uber restricts them to.
Due to Uber’s rating system, as well as it’s vaunted “business model,” which implies total observation and control of every taxi ride, human nature will inevitably lead to attempts to circumvent that matrix.
In simple English it means that Uber cabbies will learn to apply increased discretion as they troll for fares.
I don’t think it is unreasonable for me to predict two trends, based upon two incentives.
One - the trend to favour flexible payments, like cash and Two - the trend to avoid pukers.
Experienced cabbies prefer the privacy of cash. And they eventually learn how to avoid pukers, by not picking up people who are obviously pissed to the gills.
The non-exempt cabbie, when hailed by a potential puker, can simply drive on by, without anyone knowing about it. The Uber cabbie, on the other hand, has to cancel the trip on his computer, which leaves a time-stamped record of the event, which he may have to explain later.
From the point of view of the cab driver, who would want to be strangled by the Uber model?
And that is why, the Uber cab driver will, eventually, become the exact same person as the non-Uber cab driver.
Or, if he can’t figure out how to avoid the pukers, he will quit being a cab driver.
There are certain, fundamental realities in the cab business that cannot be circumvented by dispatch technologies, nor ignorant or opportunistic politicians.
It’s all so easy to understand. I don’t know why I feel compelled to explain it.
A.K.A. Uncle Block Et. Al.
To the editor,
(Editor’s note: This is an open letter to members of the PVAC regarding the City of Mississauga’s decision to issue 250 temporary taxi plates.)
The proposal to issue an unprecedented 250 temporary taxi plates in the current situation, with Mississauga taxi plates already sitting on the shelf, is beyond rational comprehension.
To flood the market with taxis which are already competing with an entity which gained a footing in the market by ignoring all regulatory frameworks including provincial (commercial insurance), municipal (bylaw) and federal (HST) rules by self-identifying as “ridesharing” will cause further damage to the livelihoods of all stakeholders who consistently respected the parameters of fair competition and followed the previously established and accepted rules in the Mississauga taxi business. (As an aside, the public is largely ignorant of these facts because they do not have intimate knowledge of the taxi business.) The longest serving, former Mayor of Mississauga Hazel McCallion even took the highly unusual step to issue a post-retirement letter expressing her bewilderment at how the taxi industry has been treated in light of unregulated competition.
To add 250 taxicabs to an already beleaguered market will result in drivers and owners seeing their incomes further reduced as they will be forced to compete for smaller and smaller margins of profit. Moreover, and more importantly, the public will suffer as they deal with disgruntled drivers eager to rip off customers and avoid or delay required vehicle maintenance as they seek to eke out a living wage out of a shrinking pool of customers further diluted with the presence of an additional fleet of 250 cabs. That’s the equivalent of adding an additional brokerage to the City! This proposal is absurd and detached from reality! Let the current number of taxi plates stand and allow them to compete.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm outside of Listowel, Ontario. I asked the couple who had invested heavily in the state of the art milking facility, roughly the size of a suburban high-school, whether they supported the dairy quota or would prefer liberalization of the program. They fully supported the dairy quota system understanding that controlling growth ensures long-term sustainability both for themselves, their customers and their competitors.
Like the dairy industry, the taxi industry has survived and was a reliable source of income for hardworking families, (in the taxi industry mostly visible minority and immigrant) due to the quota system that has been in existence for the last 50 years.
Now, with the jeopardy of an additional 250 cars, this proposal further threatens the livelihood of law abiding citizens. It is neither fair nor just. Busting the quota system will hurt the whole industry. It will breed fully justified resentment, not to mention a serious distrust of the current democratic political administration. (As an aside, the quota system was the measured response to the inherent boom and bust cycles of capitalism.)
The issuance of additional plates will hurt drivers, and will contribute to a further devaluation of the taxi plate values which will effectively strip the pensions of those who spent their working years, in good faith, saving and paying for them. It is neither fair nor just, to ignore their plight; the retired taxi-owners have taken the brunt of the assault of “ridesharing”, seeing their retirement incomes plummet by 70 to 75 percent. Nursing home payments, property taxes, taxi plate renewals, groceries come out of this income. None of these costs have come down!
Effective July 1, 2017, “ridesharing” companies will be required to collect and charge the HST, a measure which will make somewhat more even the playing field between taxis and “ridesharing”. To issue more taxi plates will negate the effects of this long overdue positive change and will prove to be a hindrance to the long term survival, sustainability and competitiveness of the Mississauga taxi industry.
I strongly urge the members of PVAC to reject the issuance of these additional taxi plates and to urge Council to rescind the motion completely.