Mayor John Tory wants council to change taxi bylaws

Mayor John Tory said council will work to change its bylaws governing the taxi industry to enable cab companies to be more competitive with services like Uber.

Tory calls on taxi drivers to keep working throughout Pan Am Games

A Beck taxi driver protests against Uber in early June. Some drivers have threatened to launch some form of job action during the Pan Am Games. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Mayor John Tory said council will work to change its bylaws governing the taxi industry to enable cab companies to be more competitive with Uber and services like it.

Tory made the announcement following a morning meeting with cab companies, taxi drivers and Uber representatives.

"We have to level the playing field," Tory said, noting the shifting landscape in the ground transportation industry has had a "harsh effect" on drivers.

Tory said the current bylaws "don't capture" what Uber, the popular ride-sharing app, is doing. Last week, an Ontario Superior Court judge denied a city application for an injunction against Uber, saying there's no evidence the company is operating as a taxi broker.

Tory said Toronto will likely file an appeal in the ruling.

"There has to be one set of rules that apply to all companies," Tory said, adding right now Uber is operating "outside of the law."

The mayor also said he received some assurances cab driver won't launch any job action during the upcoming Pan Am Games, something he expressed concerns about earlier in the day. 

"We don't want to reflect badly on our city as we put the Games on," Tory told CBC News on Monday morning.

"I can only hope that everybody in the city takes a positive this week."

UberX will 'continue to serve the city'

During the meeting, representatives from the taxi industry asked Ian Black, general manager at Uber, to shut down the UberX app in Toronto.

"UberX can shut down today," said Sam Moini, a taxi fleet operator at Beck, Co-op and Crown, after the meeting. He said that would've shown goodwill to resolve the issue.

But Black refused the request, explaining that when Tory said Uber operated outside the bylaw, that meant the bylaw needed to be expanded, not that Uber or its services were illegal.

"UberX is legal," Black said. "We will continue to serve the city."

Black added that Uber is a new model of ride sharing that was distinct from taxis. He said that point of view was backed up by a judge who ruled in Uber's favour last week in a case launched by Toronto.

Games are 'not the time' to protest: taxi CEO

Peter Zhakos, CEO of Co-op Cabs and Crown Taxi, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning he doesn't support a shutdown during the Games, but afterwards, "that's a different story."

The Games are simply "not the time" to stage a protest, Zhakos said, adding that the city needs to streamline its bylaws governing the taxi industry so traditional cab companies can compete with services such as Uber.

That should include a major reduction in the amount of regulation new cab drivers must go through before they get behind the wheel, Zhakos argues.

Tory said cab drivers have a "perfectly legitimate business dispute" when it comes to Uber, but didn't say what changes the city might make.

Judge Sean Dunphy dismissed the city's application to stop Uber last week, saying there is "no evidence" the company is operating as a taxi broker.

In his decision, Dunphy said questions surrounding the regulation of evolving communications technology should be resolved politically.

Uber has always argued it is a communications company that connects passengers and drivers, and thus isn't subject to the city's bylaws.

With files from The Canadian Press


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