Metro Morning

Toronto city council could force Uber out with high fees on drivers, spokesperson says

Uber will be forced to leave Toronto if city council adopts rules that impose extremely high fees on drivers working the ride-hailing service, its general manager said as council begins a debate on ground transportation.

Uber Canada GM says taxi industry has influenced council decision-making

Uber Canada general manager Ian Black says that "the traditional taxi industry" still has a "corrupting influence" at city hall but Beck Taxi's Kristine Hubbard says that's "absurd." 2:03

Uber will be forced to leave Toronto if city council adopts rules that impose extremely high fees on drivers working the ride-hailing service, its general manager said as council begins a debate on ground transportation.

Ian Black, general manager of Uber Canada, told Metro Morning on Tuesday that council will decide whether or nor to adopt regulations that would allow ride-hailing services to continue in the city and that decision is pivotal for Uber. 
Taxi drivers gather at Toronto city hall as councillors prepare to debate Uber. (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

"City council faces a choice. Do they want to embrace a vision of the future that includes ride-sharing, that includes innovation in transportation? And that, by the way, aligns with the recommendations of city staff," he said.

"Or do they want to turn the clock back to a world where only taxis are on the streets for on-demand transportation? That's what's in front of city council. We will take our direction from them."

Black said the company is hopeful that council will follow the advice of city staff who support ride-hailing services. 

The licensing and standards committee, however, considered a staff report on the issue two weeks ago and made several amendments to that report. 
Metro Morning host Matt Galloway has the spokespeople for Beck Taxi and Uber address each other directly about their issues. 2:17

"It's not so much that we get what we want. It's that rules are created around ride-sharing. If they aren't, then ride-sharing will be explicitly not allowed in this city," he said.

"If you look to the future, transportation is changing. We're undergoing a massive shift from people driving their individual cars to people taking shared modes of transportation. By enabling ride-sharing, we're opening up the city to innovation that reduces congestion, lowers cost of transportation, increases reliability of transportation.

"It's really about broadening the mix of transportation that's available to Torontonians."

Black said if council imposes extremely high fees on Uber drivers, it will make it extremely difficult for the service to operate. He said Uber drivers typically work part-time, working a few hours a week. 

"There would be some things dressed up as ride-sharing regulations that add enormous cost or red tape to individual drivers," he said. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees becomes very cost prohibitive for them."

He said Uber welcomes insurance and city staff recommended that taxi and ride-sharing companies have at least $2 million of commercial insurance. 
Uber supporters at Toronto City Hall hold a banner with the names of 80,000 people who signed a petition in support of the ride-hailing service. (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

Black said there is so much opposition to Uber on council because the taxi industry has influenced individual councillors on the issue, but he declined to name any councillors who have "vested interests" and are in the pocket of the taxi industry.

"Certainly, some are," he said. "The corrupting influence of the traditional taxi industry remains at city hall," he said. "Broadly, the industry corrupts decision-making."

He said councillors opposed to Uber are not following the will of the public.

Kristine Hubbard, operations manager at Beck Taxi Limited in Toronto, said the suggestion that the taxi industry is influencing council decisions is shocking.

"I absolutely completely disagree with that. I must say I'm a little bit stunned to hear it," she said.

Hubbard said the allegation that taxi companies are influencing councillors is completely false. 
Uber Canada general manager Ian Black tells Metro Morning what the ride-hailing service needs from city hall to stay in Toronto and Beck Taxi's Kristine Hubbard talks about what the taxi industry wants city hall to do. 2:47

"People develop relationships in a regulated industry with the people who are creating those regulations and potentially enforcing them just based on years of being in the same city hall together," she said. "To suggest that it's anything more than that is absurb."

Hubbard said the taxi industry wants the same rules applied to all drivers providing the same service.

"There's a completely two-tiered system," she said. 

Councillor says a taxi is a taxi

"Thousands of taxi drivers on the road this minute are wondering why they were foolish enough to follow the rules."

Hubbard said Uber has created confusion by the terms it has used. Ride-sharing is providing a taxi service, she said.

"These are vehicles for hire. They are carrying paying passengers. These people are making money."

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, a member of the licensing and standards committee, said he thinks council will follow the lead taken by the committee and adopt clear rules for the taxi industry.

"If it looks like a taxi, it drives like a taxi, it picks up people like a taxi, then it's a taxi," he said.

 "It doesn't matter if you call us, you email us, you text us, you app us. The reality is, you're a taxi company. So we have closed that loophole, and it will be very, very easy to enforce the law after this council meeting."

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