August 2014

Mayor Hazel steps in to resolve PVAC dispute

by Mike Beggs

A closed door meeting called by Mayor Hazel McCallion may get Mississauga’s Public Vehicle Advisory Committee (PVAC) back on the rails.

After the PVAC failed to maintain quorum at its May and June meetings – with industry leaders protesting what they perceive to be the excessively punitive ticketing of cabbies – McCallion called the June 30 meeting for a frank discussion of this issue.

She’s hopeful the situation can be resolved at the next PVAC meeting on September 29. Should it fail to achieve quorum for a third consecutive time, the PVAC could be disbanded by Council.

“I’ve had a meeting with PVAC members and Staff, to address the overkill on ticketing,” she told Taxi News the following day. “I think I’m going to call a meeting of the PVAC and the people that are complaining, and we will see if we can come up with a solution.”

“I think they have a valid complaint. We will deal with their complaints,” she elaborates. “I think the Enforcement program is not adequate, since (the new Licensing managers) changed it around. But the problem dates back to previous Licensing managers.”

PVAC member and Blue & White Taxi president Baljit Pandori boycotted one meeting to protest Licensing’s new policy of issuing a Summons To Court for even minor offences. He notes that this entails the driver going to court a total of three times on the one charge.

“We break a law, we have to pay a price,” he acknowledges. “But for minor offences, like a missing camera sticker or a missing hubcap, come on, we have to go to court? Guys want to pay it off and get it over with.”

He relates that taxi brokers had their own meeting with the Mayor. Now he says industry is biding its time until September 29 because, “If you don’t have a meeting, you can’t do anything.”

He wishes the Mayor had called an earlier meeting, because the October 27 municipal election is sure to push back PVAC business for a few months, “And, you can’t discuss something in a day,” he adds.

Long-time owner/operator Ron Baumber suggests industry has taken the wrong route by attempting to “bully” city hall, but agrees the current level of enforcement is heavy-handed.

With Licensing inspectors going by the letter of the law, he maintains, “The solution is to sort out the rules (and update the By-Law). And we have to work together.”

“I’d like to see this ironed out,” he continues. “I think we’re getting fined for ridiculous stuff. We’re not millionaires in this business. Nobody is talking about the real issues – insurance, the cost of gas.”

This stand-off has come at a critical juncture with an outside consultant in the process of examining Mississauga’s plate issuance formula, percentage of wheelchair accessible taxis, and meter rates. It is hoped the consultant, Hara & Associates, will deliver an interim report at the September 29 meeting.

McCallion expressed her fondness for the PVAC, viewed as one of the most progressive taxi regulatory bodies in the country.

“I’ve been told that many times by members of the Toronto taxi industry,” she says.

“We give the industry an opportunity to inform us, as to what’s going on – because (Council and citizen) members of the PVAC and the Mayor don’t drive taxi, so what do we know? So, we value their input on issues. It’s very democratic.”

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