Old friend of taxi industry seeking PC nomination in Brampton
by Mike Beggs
Greater Toronto Area cab industry hopes were buoyed by the news that Toronto Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is seeking the nomination for the Progressive Conservatives in the new riding of Brampton Centre.
On short notice, they packed an Industry Meeting on March 27 at Brampton’s Canadian Convention Centre, drumming up support for the veteran councillor who was one of their strongest defenders during the contentious 2016 debate over the licensing of Uber, and other Private Transportation Companies (PTC’s).
This colourful figure has held a council seat for a quarter century, and is attempting to make a return to Queen’s Park where he was first elected as an NDP MPP in the former riding of Yorkview, and spent five years. He needed to petition 2,000 signatures from Brampton Centre residents within a week, in order to vie for the nomination for the June 7 provincial election.
“He’s the voice of the taxi people,” said Toronto owner/operator Peter Collia, a Brampton Centre resident. “It’s not a great time for us. People in Brampton are excited about this, especially people in the taxi and airport industries.”
“Giorgio Mammoliti, he helped the taxi industry a lot in Toronto. I hope he becomes our MPP. He knows the taxi industry more than anybody at city hall, or Queen’s Park,” added Toronto garage owner Javid Wali. “I have confidence he will help the taxi industry. The drivers they are suffering a lot.”
At a press conference earlier that day, live on AM640 radio, Mammoliti said PC party leader Doug Ford had urged him to run as an MPP, or for Mayor of Toronto. The two had bonded during one term of Toronto Council.
Mammoliti stressed that he is not a satellite candidate, and in fact bought his first house in the area of Brampton Centre 28 years ago, before moving to Toronto.
“I’m ready to be the MPP for Brampton Centre. I’m ready to be the voice you haven’t had,” he told the roomful of taxi interests. “I want to be that voice you deserve at Queen’s Park.
“I have respect for the taxi industry, and if I had to battle again for you I would. I did it with the help of (the late) Rob Ford, and with Doug Ford who is going to be the next Premier of the province. I want to be there with him in a Doug Ford government, a government that’s going to care about everybody.”
Mammoliti said it was premature to delve into specific taxi issues, but suggested Toronto Mayor John Tory “worked his votes” to push through the Vehicle-For-Hire bylaw in May of 2016 -- and that the playing field is tilted in favour of PTC’s, over taxis.
“If I hear of something I can do to bring it back to a level playing field, that’s exactly what I would do,” he said.
In introducing Mammoliti, City Taxi general manager Paul Sekhon urged “hardworking” taxi service providers to keep the faith in their battle against the popular Uber ridesharing app.
“This taxi industry, we’re not giving up. And we have a good friend coming to run in Brampton Centre. We’re there for you brother. This councillor has been there fighting the Mayor, just for the taxi industry. He is always there for us.
“The taxi industry, we were supposed to die four years ago. We’re not gone. We need the politicians.”
Veteran Toronto owner/operator Gerry Manley agrees that, “No one at city hall fought harder for the City’s taxi industry than Councillor Mammoliti.” And he suggests that if Mammoliti is successful in his MPP bid and the PC’s win the election, “he could have the Premier’s office take a look at Uber and like companies’ situation, and the devastation it has caused the GTA taxi and limousine industries.”
He urged Mammoliti to do the right thing, “because, when it comes to PTC’s that is not happening in any municipality where these companies have ramrodded their way into the taxi and limousine industries and gained footholds without worrying about, or coming under legislation for long periods of time, or being held accountable in a court of law for their actions.”
Mark Sexsmith, account manager for Mississauga’s All-Star Taxi, observes that, “The local municipalities, they’ve not got the power to fight a $60 billion international company. It just doesn’t happen. At least Giorgio stepped in and tried to do something.”
Sexsmith claims efficiencies would be gained through the amalgamation of the 12 separate transit authorities within the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area under an existing coordinating body such as Metrolinx.
He notes that the Province of Quebec has been “very proactive” in the regulation of this ride-hailing industry, and wonders, “Would a PC government continue the “hands off” policy of the current Ontario government?”
Mississauga plate owner Peter Pellier agrees Metrolinx is well-positioned to take over transit in its entirety throughout the GTHA, and that all that is required is the political will to do so. He says it makes “eminent sense” to include commercial transportation services under this regulatory umbrella.
“Given the manner in which Uber was accorded preferential treatment over the taxi industry, with absolutely no regard for the consequences, it is patently clear municipal regulators are no longer capable of effective regulation in this area,” he alleges.
“High time Queen’s Park took a leaf from Quebec’s book by uploading this responsibility, and in the process ensuring public health and safety are genuinely protected within a fair and equitable regulatory framework.”
Manley also believes taxi and limo regulation need to return to the provincial level, and that this could easily be done through Metrolinx.
“Most municipalities would never agree on how to fairly regulate our industries and PTC’s,” he adds.
“Just expand Metrolinx to do all the GTA transportation industry issues, regardless of whether they may be private or public transportation requirements, and this would meet what government says it is seeking, a seamless transportation system throughout the GTA.”
Manley likes the Metrolinx approach because politicians are prohibited from serving on Metrolinx, and there is already a Governing Act in place for this (the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area Transit Implementation Act, 2009), which merged Metrolinx and Go Transit.