Category Archives: Uber In Ontario

News on Uber in Ontario Canada

London Planning Report on Uber

The city of London is the latest to have drawn battle lines between taxi drivers, local government, and U.S ride-sharing company Uber. City Hall has actually taken a novel approach to Uber and has decided to pass the buck to politicians with a list of options that lead to a number of eventualities, but result in either the company being legalized and regulated or kicked out of the city entirely.
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Uber has been operating in London since it began moving across Southwestern Ontario during the end of 2015, and as always the company’s expansion has brought plenty of controversy along for the ride.

While the city is considering adopting Uber legally, it is actually still locked in a legal battle with the $40 billion valued giant. London has taken a front on approach to combating the company. Whereas other cities have just let Uber operate illegally without regulation, London is part of the group of municipalities that have actually turned police on Uber drivers.

The city has issued 36 fines to drivers, and the consequences have been high with legal tariffs of between $400 and $1000. However, Uber has defended its drivers and has stumped up for their fines, but despite this the company is positive about the report.

“We welcome the (report and) look forward to continuing to engage with city officials and council to modernize regulations to encourage innovation, put people first and create safe, reliable and affordable transportation options,” an Uber spokesperson wrote.

Uber has oft argued that it is a technology company that merely provides a platform (smartphone app) for passengers to connect with freelance drivers. This argument the company says means it is not a taxi service and therefore should not be regulated like one. Taxi unions have fought the company and Roger Caranci of the London Taxi Association said the city should protect the industry:

“The vast majority of rules are in place to protect consumers. We will not compromise any of those rules,” he said.

Uber protest to hurt NBA All Star weekend in Toronto

The NBA All Star weekend is one of the biggest events on the American sporting calendar, and this year it will be held in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Historic is a good way to describe the February 12 to 14 sporting extravaganza as it is the first time the NBA All-Star is being held outside of the United States.

Canada, the province of Ontario, and the city of Toronto have a lot of pressure because of that fact, and it seems the weekend will face a sizeable obstacle in the form of a giant taxi driver protest.
NBA All Star
Unions representing taxi drivers disgruntled over the rise of the UberX ride-sharing service in the city are organizing a protest next weekend that could bring Toronto to a standstill. Representatives are furious that doors appear to be opening for U.S. based company Uber, which has been operating illegally in Toronto since 2014.

The company is now under consideration for regulation after a city council vote late last year and Aviva Canada’s ride-sharing auto insurance policy for ride-sharing companies has been approved by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). Taxi drivers are awaiting stricter rules against Uber and more protection for their own industry in the face of competition that they view as unfair.

An earlier protest in December brought downtown Toronto to a gridlock and the organizers of the NBA All-Star weekend protest say this new picket will be larger.

“We are going for a heavy duty strike much bigger than December 9th,” said Paul Sekhon, head of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association of the GTA.

While public transport will still ship the majority of fans to the event, the Toronto government is suitably worried by a protest that could bring large parts of the city, including the area around the Air Canada Centre, to a standstill. Mayor John Tory said the 2016 All-Star game could bring as much as $100 million to the city and he said police may be forced to “take whatever steps necessary” to make sure the event is successful.

“It doesn’t enhance the reputation of the taxi industry or their cause,” Tory said of a protest. “I really, really hope” the industry sees the city is moving as fast as it can.

No legal action against Uber says Toronto mayor

Taxi drivers said they would seek an injunction against Uber in Toronto, but the city council voted on Wednesday and decided the unions will have to wait. The council says it will not take legal action against Uber at the moment, but will look at the matter again in the summer.
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The latest round of government vs. Uber vs. taxi industry vs. government did little to ease tensions that have been building since Uber made its debut in Ontario during 2014. Taxi drivers once again were vocal in their criticism of the government’s ruling, but the council said that its decision sends Uber a clear message, even if legal action will not be sought right now.

“Our professional advice that we received from our lawyers and regulators was to the effect that we were not going to have the best chance at being successful in an injunction brought at this time,” Mayor John Tory said.

Any application for an injunction, which is a course taxi driver unions want to take, will not be heard until the summer, at least. The city says this sends a message to Uber;

“We are sending a clear message to Uber,” Coun. Janet Davis said. “We are quite prepared and we are directing our staff to launch an injunction at the right time.”

Last year the city voted to regulate the controversial UberX service and since then the situation has got worse, not better. Firstly Uber did not comply with a city request to cease operations until regulations are in place (likely the end of 2016), and then taxi drivers protested the decision to regulate the company, bringing Downtown Toronto to a standstill.

Uber has won some major victories in recent weeks, most notably the vote in Edmonton last week that will see the city legalize the UberX service. Taxi associations are furious at that decision, but Uber will be legal in Edmonton from March 1 if it complies with several city demands.

In many ways, the path to a legalized Uber should be easier in Toronto, because the province of Ontario now has something that others in Canada do not. Aviva Canada’s new ride-sharing auto insurance policy will make its debut this month, giving Uber drivers their first ever legitimate coverage. The Ontario exclusive policy (Aviva will expand it with time) means taxi drivers have one less objection to the illegal UberX service in place.

However, until the city takes decisive action one way or another, the merry go round will keep going.

FSCO approves Aviva Canada ride-sharing policy

The Financial Service Commission of Ontario has granted regulatory approval to Aviva Canada to launch its ride-sharing specific auto insurance policy in the province. The policy is a huge help to controversial ride-sharing company Uber as it gives its drivers their first ever auto insurance coverage. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) described the policy as a first of its kind in Canada.
Aviva Canada
The most interesting result of the FSCO’s decision is that it leaves UberX operatives in Canada’s largest province covered for the first time, but those same drivers are still working in Ontario illegally. That’s because Uber is still yet to receive regulatory permission in the province, in other words the UberX service has not been legalized.
Aviva says it is fulfilling a customer need and filling a space in the market.

“There are a lot of people out there trying to make some extra money, and that’s a great thing, but they’re doing it without the appropriate coverage for themselves and for their passengers as well,” said spokesman Glenn Cooper.

Toronto has recently voted to regulate Uber, but changes have not been implemented yet, while a bill to potentially legalize ride-sharing services in Ontario is still waiting to go before the committees. Champion of that bill, Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak, has described Aviva’s policy as a major step forward and urged the province to legalize sharing companies.

“The longer we delay on an overall ride-sharing legislative framework the less help it is for cabbies, for Uber drivers, for customers and I’m worried that situation, that tension, is going to escalate if the province does not act,” he said.

However, the taxi industry remains hugely critical of Uber and opposition to the company is never likely to cease, even if the company is legalized and regulated fairly. Taxi associations have protested Uber and think the company provides illegal and unfair competition, and as such they have also spoke critically of Aviva’s policy.

“We are very concerned that an Aviva announcement that ‘an approved product exists and is available for purchase’ will be misconstrued by politicians to mean ‘20,000 illegal UberX drivers are now insured,’ Toronto Taxi Alliance president Gail Souter and Canadian Taxicab Association president Marc Andre Way wrote in a letter to Aviva.

Aviva Canada released a statement on its media relations page last week saying that it does not endorse Uber or any other ride-sharing company.

Ottawa secret report predicted Uber’s problems

Mobilitt durch CarsharingA behind closed doors study conducted by the Ottawa government looked into the impact sharing companies (such as Uber and Lyft) would have on various aspects of Canadian economy and industry.

The “in-depth” study was carried out by a team including high-ranking federal bureaucrats, a team comprised of five deputy ministers and a team of analysts. The subsequent report delved into aspects of ride-sharing companies like Uber and sought to weigh the positives and negatives on the Canadian economy, and how the service would impact local municipalities, rival industries, and consumers.

The secret study was leaked a year after the final report in February 2015, which arrived mere months after Uber made its debut in the Canadian market. Since then the UberX service has expanded and been adopted by drivers and consumers, but has courted controversy in every city amongst local authorities and taxi driver associations.

The report found that local governments would struggle to find ways to regulate Uber as sharing companies by their nature are hard to govern. It is certainly true of Uber as the company has operated since arriving in Canada as an illegal and unregulated entity. Edmonton became the first city to legalize the UberX service last week, with its laws set to come into action after March 1, 2016.

Another area the report discussed was how companies such as Uber have employees who are not insured. Again, it proved an accurate prediction of the market as Uber’s drivers have so far operated in Canada without sufficient auto insurance. Aviva Canada announced last month that it will launch a ride-sharing specific auto insurance policy, although it won’t launch until later in February and is exclusive to the Ontario market, which is home to some 20,000 Uber drivers.

“The fact that the sharing economy will create winners and losers is obvious,” the report reads. “What remains to be determined is what the overall impact will be on Canadian society and the degree to which proactive government responses can positively shape the outcomes of sharing economy.”

“For instance, in most cases, sharing-economy companies do not provide insurance, benefits, or training to their workers,” the report reads. “This shifts the risks onto individual sharing economy workers who remain unprotected and unsure of their rights and responsibilities.”

Hamilton continues offensive against Uber drivers

The city of Hamilton in Ontario is continuing to fight against the rise of Uber and its ride-sharing model as authorities clamped down on UberX drivers again last week.

The city said it tracked and found 13 drivers who were working for the UberX service and issued them with fines, adding to the seven already caught to make the total number of drivers charged in Hamilton to 21. As with all charges, the 13 drivers have been tracked for operating a commercial peer-2-peer driving service without a city handed taxi license.
Toronto Mayor Tory Unconvinced By Uber
All the drivers charged by Hamilton so far will pay fines of $305, but still many have not been discouraged and will continue to work for Uber in the city.

Uber has said previously that it will “support drivers in instances of enforcement” – which essentially means the company commits to paying the fines, although it has not explicitly said such. Hamilton’s stance mirrors that of other cities in Canada who deem Uber’s operations as illegal as the company employs drivers without having sufficient regulatory permission.

While banning the company entirely has been exposed as a futile exercise, many cities are still instructing law enforcement to clamp down on UberX drivers by issuing them with charges. Toronto is one exception, where Mayor John Tory said that going after UberX drivers would cost too much money and waste too much time.

Toronto was the first Canadian city to propose regulatory changes to adopt Uber legally into the city, but while those regulations are made, the company was asked to cease operations. Hamilton is one step behind, but says it is seeking to regulate Uber, but wants the company to stop operations until a clear path is found. In both instances the U.S. based ride-sharing giant has refused to stop working in the mentioned cities.

Earlier in the month Uber said it would reduce prices in five Canadian cities, Hamilton among them, in a bid to entice consumers who tend to take less rides in the harsh winter cold.

Uber Launching UberPOOL in Toronto

Ride sharing service Uber is expanding in Toronto despite still receiving plenty of opposition from numerous parties. The U.S. based company announced today that it is launching its uberPOOL service in Canada’s biggest city from January 13 at 2 p.m.

Auto Insurance For UberX Drivers in Ontario
Auto Insurance For UberX Drivers in Ontario

The uberPOOL service builds on the UberX ride sharing model, allowing customers to spread the cost of a ride by pooling with other riders going on the same route. UberX works more like a traditional taxi service, shuttling one or a group of passengers with the same destination. UberPOOL works by letting customers who would otherwise not know each other pool together on the same route to spread cost, making it as much as 30 per cent more affordable than UberX.

“Our vision for uberPOOL is simple,” the statement said. “We want to reduce the number of cars on the road, while providing Torontonians with transportation that’s more affordable than ever. When two people share their ride, that’s one less car on the road and a cheaper fare for both riders.”

The service will be available between Jane Street and Victoria Park Avenue up to Highway 401, including the Yonge corridor north of the 401 to Finch Avenue between Bathurst Street and Bayview Avenue. Uber says that the service will cost $4 for a minimum fare, with up to two occupants allowed along the same route. If a second passenger joins the route they pay a minimum extra $1, but if no extra passenger arrives, the original occupant who selected the service will get a solo ride at the reduced uberPOOL price.

In recent months Uber has won numerous victories in Toronto, despite still facing fierce opposition and still effectively operating in the city illegally. The city council voted in November to legalize UberX by drawing up legitimate regulations for the service, expected to be completed this year. However, Uber has angered politicians by continuing to operate unregulated in the meantime, while taxi associations are protesting the service for its practices and the threat Uber poses to the traditional taxi industry.

Last week Aviva Canada, the second largest auto insurance provider in Ontario, announced that it will be launching a ride-sharing oriented auto insurance policy next month. The coverage would be for those working less than 20 hours with Uber and other services, potentially clearing up a problem Uber has faced with drivers operating without adequate auto insurance protection.

Taxi driver hands in license in wake of Uber competition

In the midst of all the fighting between taxi associations, local government, and drive sharing company Uber, it is perhaps hard to forget that there are personal stories lost in the power struggle. Khalil Talke highlights the plight the taxi industry is in and points to a reason why so many are looking to join the ranks of UberX as a driver… some 20,000 are already working for the company in Toronto alone.

Mr. Talke has been working as a taxi operative in Toronto for the last 27 years, but he says the advent of Uber and spiraling operating costs have become too much and he has turned in his license. Speaking to CBC, he said that the cost of licensing is too high, while he also cannot afford to put specialized winter tires on his car, as is required by Ontarian law.

Taxi Driver Hands In License In Wake Of Uber Competition
Taxi Driver Hands In License In Wake Of Uber Competition

The differing costs for drivers is thought to be a major reason why so many new drivers are opting for UberX instead of traditional taxi services. Becoming an Uber driver takes minutes and costs little, while becoming a taxi driver is painstaking. There only limited taxi licenses handed out each year, but more prohibitive is the cost of licensing, which means many new drivers start their careers having already spent hundreds of dollars.

Talke said he turned in his license, “Because we are not making money. If you can’t make money, you can’t run your life.”

He said he is now considering working for UberX, but while he shares his admiration for the company with many, he also shares the worry too. Discussing UberX, he said: “Business-wise it’s okay, I like it. Their model is okay,” Talke said of UberX. “But guess what? I don’t know how they are going to regulate this company. They haven’t been regulated anywhere in the world.”

Uber has been widely lauded for its business model, but has found excessive push back from governments and taxi associations around the world. The company is unregulated in Toronto, meaning all of the UberX drivers are essentially operating illegally. The city voted to regulate the company starting in 2016, but at the moment Uber continues in its unregulated state and is flying in the face of requests to halt operations until regulations are in place.

Other Canadian cities are expected to follow with their own regulations, but at the moment many have instructed law enforcement to go after drivers of the service. That is not a tactic being employed in Toronto, where Mayor John Tory said it would be a waste of law enforcement time and money.

Uber to spread wings in Canada during 2016

Uber has swept up plenty of interest in 2015, but the controversial company is not quite done yet and if 2015 was the year in which Uber fell into the minds of Canadians, 2016 could be when the company takes the country by storm.

At the moment Uber is known for its UberX ride sharing service that lets users select nearby drivers to pick them up pre-paid, a sort of 21st century take on the traditional taxi idea. However, taxi drivers have not welcomed this new dawn with open arms and see Uber as a genuine threat to their livelihood and industry. Protests and government attempts to shut Uber down have followed, but the company has persisted in Canada and continues to grow and slowly find regulatory support.

Uber To Spread Wings In Canada During 2016
Uber To Spread Wings In Canada During 2016

While other industries may have looked on with sympathy for taxi drivers, it seems Uber’s cross hairs are not just on the peer to peer driving sector. The company is not content with seismically changing the taxi industry and will now move to food delivery, carpooling, and health care.

Of course, food delivery and carpooling seem like natural progressions for Uber, but health care ambitions will rightly raise some eyebrows.

“Uber’s goal was, and is, to be the world’s most powerful logistics company,” said Aron Solomon, the innovation lead for the MaRS’s LegalX team, which connects lawyers and technologists. “Anything that can be delivered, will.”

Speaking to CTV, Solomon added: “So if (Uber) has food, people are going to want food from Uber,” he said.

UberEats is already in Toronto and in many aspects mirrors Uber’s driver sharing company in that it allows users to see a list of meals in nearby locations and have them delivered within 10 minutes. UberEats even lets users choose food from over 100 restaurants in Canada’s largest city and have those genuine menu items delivered within 45 minutes.

Toronto is ground zero from many of Uber’s enterprises and the city became the first in Canada to vote on regulating the UberX service. Barhop is another idea that is currently getting a trial outing in Toronto, allowing up to five commuters to carpool into various Toronto financial and commercial hubs for a flat rate of $3.50 or $4.50.

Toronto Mayor Tory unconvinced by Uber

While Toronto is probably the most relaxed Canadian city regarding the UberX ride sharing service, it still faces numerous problems with the company and Mayor John Tory has said he is losing patience with Uber.

The Toronto City Council voted in October to place regulations on the UberX service, effectively giving Uber a path to legal operations in Canada’s biggest city. Other cities are expected to follow eventually, but perhaps the continued problems in Toronto will provide a reminder to other governments across the country that Uber needs to be treated with caution.

Toronto Mayor Tory Unconvinced By Uber
Toronto Mayor Tory Unconvinced By Uber

The city is not able to draw up regulations for UberX until sometime in 2016, likely during the first half of the New Year. After the vote the city council in Toronto asked that Uber would cease operations in the city until the regulations are drawn up. However, the company refused to do so and still has drivers working in Toronto illegally.

“The UberX service allows anyone with a relatively new vehicle to sign up for the company and work as a quasi-taxi driver, often offering prices that are better than standard taxi services. Uber’s model of upfront payment has been praised, but the company has courted controversy because it is operating in Canada without regulation, while drivers are often working without legitimate auto insurance coverage.”

Mayor John Tory has said that is patience is being tested by Uber, but concedes there is little he can do and going after drivers would be a waste of law enforcement resources. “I’m apprehensive about is whether Uber … is going to be, you know, acting in good faith,” he said.

“I’m expecting, as the mayor of the city – as I think are the people and as I think are the city council – that they will respect those rules, which don’t mean months of negotiation or months of quibbling,” said Mr. Tory.

“We’ve been two months now and I’m not convinced, shall I say, that they’ve been acting with as much dispatch as I would have expected them to do, given that I think there’s some good faith required on their part,” he said.