Toronto city council votes for new rules to accommodate Uber

Toronto city council has asked city staff to develop new rules to accommodate Uber in its taxi and limousine bylaws, with an added request that Uber cease operations until those rules are established.

City council asking the company to cease operations until new rules are established

Taxi driver Sajjad Ahmad attends the city council to protest Uber, in Toronto, September 30, 2015. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

After debating the issue for more than six hours, Toronto city council has asked city staff to develop new rules to accommodate Uber in its taxi and limousine bylaws, with an added request that Uber cease operations until those rules are established.

Mayor John Tory's motion compels Toronto's Licensing and Standards Committee to revise its rules, with an aim to create "a level playing field" between traditional cabs and Uber, which has upended the city's ground transportation industry since it launched in 2012.

Councillors voted 32-12 in favour of the motion and also passed a motion asking Uber to stop its Toronto operations while the new guidelines are established. It's likely that the San Francisco, Calif.-based company may not comply.

"Uber's not going away, we can't just dig our heels in and pretend they don't exist," said Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon, who supported Tory's motion.

"Torontonians want them and so in my opinion we need to regulate them," McMahon added.

Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker was a vocal opponent of the motion, and expressed strong support for traditional cab drivers at the meeting.

De Baeremaeker told CBC News he would "absolutely" support a return to court, where earlier this year, a judge ruled Uber is not operating as a taxi brokerage and is not bound by the city's taxi bylaws. The service does not dispatch drivers over phone lines — language that is specifically used in Toronto's taxi bylaws.

"Uber got off on a technicality," he said.

  Sajid Mughal was one of several angry taxi drivers upset with council's decision.

  "We are not feeling good because Uber is here and the next report will be in spring and so industry has to suffer for another 6 months," Mughal told CBC News. 

Muhammad Butt claims council is "killing" their business.

  "They thinking of their own self. They're selfish people, they're never thinking that we are human beings," he said.

But the Toronto Taxi Alliance welcomed the decision.

"We are pleased that Toronto council voted against a two-tier system for transportation services and rejected the creation of Transportation Network Companies," said Sam Moini, a spokesperson for the organization. "We encourage the Toronto Police Service and Licensing bylaw officers to begin aggressive enforcement of the city's by-laws, which will now capture UberX," 

  Council also decided that beginning in November, the base rate for cab fares will start at $3.25 cents, instead of $4.25

The Licensing and Standards Committee will return to city hall with revised guidelines in the spring of 2016. 

It is not yet clear what the new regulations will look like.