Tag Archives: Toronto

Uber Campaign Pushes for Positive Regulations in Toronto

Toronto’s city licensing staff are gearing up to reveal its regulations that will be aimed at accommodating ride-sharing companies such as Uber. The U.S. company knows that for the most part it has customers on its side, so has started a PR campaign that is aimed at showing the city council that Torontonians want the service in their city.
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On Tuesday the company launched an online petition which will be used to press councilors into supporting ride-sharing regulations. However, as other Canadian cities have shown, not any old regulations will suit Uber and the company is pushing for “smart” and “progressive” laws.

It is a make or break time for Uber in Toronto. The city voted last year to draw up regulations and amend bylaws to adopt ride-sharing services, but the city’s regulations could be ignored by Uber if the company does not agree with the changes. If that scenario unfolds then the company could leave Toronto entirely, as it has recently done in Calgary under similar circumstances.

The precedence for adopting Uber is in Edmonton, where the city drew up new regulations and the company agreed to them. Indeed, Uber would already be legal in the city if it was not for an auto insurance issue that has halted Uber’s legalization until the summer.

Toronto would face no such auto insurance problems as Aviva Canada recently debuted a new coverage that offers a simple and affordable policy for drivers of ride-sharing companies. The city is likely to mirror Edmonton’s regulations closely, which would mean vehicle checks, background checks for drivers, and Class 4 licenses for drivers.

Uber has not said specifically what it expects from the Toronto regulations, but the company has pointed out that it hopes the city makes it possible for the company to work in the city and is not merely closing the door.

Of the new media campaign and petition, Uber’s general manager for Canada, Ian Black, said that the UberX service aids in getting transport support to areas of the city that have been “previously ignored by transit and by traditional transportation options.”

“We’ve heard quite good feedback, we’ve heard that city council does have an appetite to move forward and create positive regulations.”

The big question is, would Uber pull out of Toronto if regulations are not what it expects? The company pulled out of Calgary, but has stuck around in other cities and has shown that it will support drivers even if they are unregulated and uninsured. Toronto is the most populated city in Canada, so Uber leaving would hurt the company, even if only from a marketing point of view.

Black says it is “too soon” to discuss whether the company would leave city, but perhaps it is worth asking if Toronto can afford to ignore the economic opportunities presented by the sharing industry?

Taxi protest called off on NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto

Taxi drivers planning to protest regarding the UberX ride-sharing service in Toronto have performed a U-Turn and decided to call off the protest. The movement was designed to disrupt the start of the NBA All-Star weekend on Friday, the first time the showpiece sporting event has ever been held outside of the USA.

The historic event gave taxi associations an ideal platform to highlight their fight against Uber, while disrupting the NBA weekend would have certainly sent a message to authorities, who are starting to play ball with Uber. However, Mayor John Tory spoke earlier in the week suggesting the protest would not get drivers the sympathy they want and that the picket should be called off.
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Interestingly, the union organizing the protest has backed down and in an unprecedented move has even hinted that authority pressure may be the reason why the protest is called off.

“Emotions overran us … There will be no strike for the NBA All-Star weekend,” Paul Sekhon, of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association, said on Wednesday at Toronto city hall.

Toronto averted the protest after Sekhon and other taxi industry representatives spoke to city councilors Kristyn Wong-Tam, Janet Davis and Glenn De Baeremaeker, a meeting that clearly cooled tensions for now. However, unions are warning that the city must get its house in order and solve the problem with UberX, which operates illegally in Toronto.

Drivers say the service provides unfair competition because its freelance drivers do not have to go through the same costs and regulatory licensing as taxi operatives. Unions say if Toronto does not solve the Uber problem then another protest will inevitably follow after this weekend.

“We’re not saying we’re calling (the protest) off forever,” said Sam Moini, president of the Fleet Operators Association.

It certainly helped the situation that the councilors involved in the meeting are opposed to UberX, in its current unregulated state at least. They urged consumers in Toronto to avoid using the ride-sharing service that connects passengers with freelance drivers through a smartphone app.

De Baeremaeker said “If you love somebody, do not let them get into an Uber taxi,” while describing UberX as illegal, unsafe, and unfair.

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.

Toronto could learn from Edmonton regarding Uber, says Mayor Tory

Edmonton became the first Canadian city to legalize Uber and the UberX ride-sharing service after a city council vote earlier this week. The move could be an example to other Canadian cities, including Toronto, which itself has already made moves to accept Uber. However, the council is still largely divided on ride-sharing companies in Canada’s largest city, but Toronto Mayor John Tory praised Alberta’s capital for its historic vote.

“What we are trying to do here is exactly what they have done, which is to fashion a bylaw which achieves a balance,” Tory said. “They’ve come up with one answer to that in Edmonton, which we can learn from.”

The city of Toronto was the first to vote favorably for Uber, agreeing to create regulations for the company in October last year. However, regulations and changes to the law that will accommodate UberX have not yet been created, and the U.S. based company has compounded the issue by continuing to operate in Toronto even though the council asked it to halt operations in the city until regulations are created.
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Tory said the challenge for the city is creating a bylaw and then having it passed through the council via a vote. There is still opposition to Uber in the Toronto City Council, with some members siding with the traditional taxi service in a confrontation that is continually looking like a pitch battle. Edmonton’s breakthrough this week could point Toronto in the direction it needs to go to accept Uber, with the Alberta city even getting Uber to comply to some rules.

Indeed, it seems Uber is willing to meet some stipulations if the company feels it is being accommodated by a municipality. For example, the San Francisco giant agreed with the city of Edmonton to stop operations in the area until it is legalized on March 1. It is a stark contrast to the Toronto situation, where Uber decided not to cease operating in the city while the council dallies over what to do next.

Tory has been critical of that stance, but he has voiced again that there is a way forward for the UberX service to be adopted in Toronto. Councillor Jim Karygiannis, a known supporter of the taxi service, is less enthused about Uber and says he is “very concerned” by Tory’s comments:

“I am surprised that the mayor this morning said that we should let council not decide, we should let the legal department decide if we have an injunction or not,” Karygiannis said. “I believe that it’s up to council to decide.”

Edmonton may have trailed a blaze and showed other Canadian cities a viable way to legalize Uber, but Toronto’s path to the same conclusion is expected to take longer. Indeed, a breakthrough may not come until the end of the year, which is when the Toronto licensing staff are expected to make recommendations on how the city could regulate Uber.

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.