April 15, 2016
Uber process. There are three stories being repeated by the public at City Hall consultations this week on the Uber issue: stories about a pie, a divorce and a change in the times. The pie story is about economic activity — the amount of money spent on taxis, and what rules could sway the market. Taxi drivers are loathe to give up their share of that pie. The divorce story started in a marriage between the City of Toronto and the taxi industry, and now Uber is getting in the middle. A new three-way relationship, between the city, the taxi industry and Uber (representing also future private brokerages) is now being debated, and in the process the taxi industry feels very betrayed. The change in the times story is about technology and competition — and also about an industry, some of whose members identify as children of immigrants who came here and worked to become middle class, and who feel the industry needs to be protected.
This week, the Licensing and Standards Committee spent two days in council chambers listening to over 60 members of the public. They heard from many drivers and other representatives of the taxi industry, supporters of Uber, small business owners, accessibility advocates and more. The majority of speakers called for the city to keep the industry regulated. The taxi industry kept calm for most of the meeting, until one deputation elicited an emotional response from the crowd that left one member standing and yelling, until he was escorted out for the second day in a row (see video below).
Mayor Tory’s office released a statement saying his priority is to create a level playing field which allows drivers to earn a competitive living, does not please only one stakeholder and is in the best interest of the public. Uber itself didn’t give a deputation at the committee, but did send in a detailed letter with its recommendations.
The meeting wrapped just before 7 p.m., with council voting against regulations that would legalize Uber, and bringing motions for snow tires, English language requirements for drivers and camera systems in taxis. Some members from the taxi industry even clapped at the end — perhaps a sign of the beginning of a new story.
Raw Footage: 4:39 p.m. Licensing and Standards Committee in Council Chambers. A member of the public is escorted out.
(Trouble playing video? Try watching on vimeo)