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Toronto taxi drivers hint at unrest if Uber continues to operate

Toronto's taxi drivers are appealing to the city, police, insurance companies and the public to help stop the ride-sharing service Uber.

Taxi association appeals to mayor, council, insurance companies, police chief

Toronto's taxi drivers appealed to the city, police, insurance companies and the public Thursday to put the brakes on the ride-sharing service Uber.

At a press conference at city hall, Toronto Taxi Alliance, an umbrella group of taxi representatives specifically formed to combat Uber, called for an emergency meeting on how to stop the company's operations in Toronto.

Some even hinted that Toronto cabbies would overturn and burn Uber cars as Parisian taxi drivers did at the end of last month.

"Please stop this. Please use existing bylaws to stop this before things get out of hand," said Behrouz Khamseh, the chair of Taxi Action.

Sam Moini, a taxi fleet operator with Beck, Co-op and Crown, called Uber a "rogue agency that does whatever it wants." He, too, said taxi drivers could protest if Uber continues.

"Public safety is at risk," Moini said.  "You're going to see chaos."

"When people are pushed to the limits and they have nothing to lose, things can get out of control and anything can happen," he added.

Councillor opposes Uber

Coun. Jim Karygiannis appealed to insurance companies to clamp down on riders. He warned Uber drivers that they could lose their insurance — mandatory in Ontario — if insurance providers knew they were engaged in ride-sharing.

He also warned of financial woes as a result of Uber's continued operation.

"Every cab pays a $5,000 year fee to the city. Do the math folks. That's $25 million," he said. "If all of a sudden we say we're going to do away with this, the city will lose $25 million. If we do the math, you will see it will hurt the city greatly."

In a letter to police chief Mike Saunders, Khamseh said "the illegal operation of a taxicab service in Toronto is a violation of the Highway Traffic Act, the Public Vehicles Act, the Insurance Act, and violation of Toronto's city by-laws."

He went on to call Uber's drivers "uninsured" and "untrained." 

Uber 'welcomes dialogue'

Uber spokeswoman Susie Heath dismissed the charges.

In an email, Heath told CBC News that "all drivers who partner with Uber for our ridesharing product, UberX, must undergo a stringent background check and complete a vehicle inspection.'

She said Uber would "welcome a dialogue with the taxi industry" and that it's "happy to come to the table to find common sense solutions that put people first.

"We believe that Torontonians deserve a safe, reliable and affordable ride in our city and that taxi and ridesharing can complement each other to better serve rider and driver needs in Toronto," Heath said.

'Veiled threats will not accomplish anything'

Mayor John Tory echoed Heath's sentiment that the taxi industry and Uber should "come to the table and do what's right for the fare paying public."

In a statement, the mayor's office said Tory is sympathetic to the struggle drivers are facing, "but we reiterate the best solution is to come to the table and move this industry forward. Strong-arm tactics and veiled threats will not accomplish anything."

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