Council says no to seeking injunction against Uber, for now

Toronto city council voted Wednesday not to seek a court injunction against Uber and individual UberX drivers right now, but has left the door open to pursue that course of action in the future.
Toronto taxi drivers are seeking an injunction against Uber, which they say is undercutting their business. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Toronto city council voted Wednesday not to seek a court injunction against Uber and individual UberX drivers right now, but has left the door open to pursue that course of action in the future.

The city's licensing and standards committee had asked council to seek the injunction. However, the city's legal department argued against pursuing that course of action now, saying it was unlikely it would be heard by the courts before new taxi rules go before council in April.

With city staff working to draft new bylaws aimed at bringing UberX into the city's regulatory fold, city solicitor Anna Kinastowski said pursuing an injunction now would likely be a waste of time.

"Any injunction application if brought today would not be heard until the summer at the earliest," she told council. "All of these things take time."

Staff from the city's legal department said they are continuing to issue tickets to some of the estimated 20,000 UberX drivers operating illegally.

At Wednesday's council meeting, Mayor John Tory agreed with the city's lawyers, saying an injunction should wait until it's more likely to be successful.

"If you go forward a second time and lose, you weaken your position," he said.

Council ultimately voted on Tory's amendment to the motion, which directs city staff to seek an injunction at the "appropriate" time.

Earlier, Coun. Jim Karygiannis said waiting to file an injunction would let Uber "off the hook."

A previous attempt by the city to obtain an injunction failed when the judge ruled that city bylaws did not apply to Uber's lower-cost UberX service, which allows riders to hail private cars. Last month, the city issued Uber a brokerage licence, but the company continues to dispatch cars that operate via its UberX service. 

The city has asked UberX to cease its operations while new rules are drafted, but the company has continued to operate. This has raised protests from traditional cabbies who say Uber should not be allowed to operate illegally.

Toronto's move to consider an injunction follows Calgary's successful attempt to put UberX on hold with a temporary injunction while that city drafts new regulations.

There are reports that traditional taxi drivers may take action during next weekend's NBA All-Star game if an injunction isn't in place.

Traditional cabbies have complained that Uber — with its lower operating costs — is undercutting them and threatening their livelihood.