A wake-up call
Start from the basic premise that the traditional taxi industry in Toronto has been driven to its knees by cruel, ill-considered and, in some cases, arguably illegal bylaw changes.
The dire effects of the latest round of the City’s so-called reforms have brutalized everyone in an industry that once upon a time could hold its head up and strive to earn a decent living in the important business of moving people safely and effectively around the city.
We don’t pretend to have all of the answers. Our business is putting out an industry newspaper, not moving people around. But after all of these years we think we have a pretty good idea of where things are in the industry now and where they are heading and the future is not at all pretty in our view.
The only real question is what the industry as a whole is going to do? Are you going to lie back and be effectively destroyed by the City’s regulatory incompetence and self-interest or do you fight back through the courts to try to get the politicians and bureaucrats to take notice and finally acknowledge and address the mess they have put you all in.
Face it. Deputations and quiet diplomacy have not worked at city hall for as long as we have been around. In fact, trying to work with city hall has generally failed miserably. Politicians and bureaucrats pretend to listen and then go off and do precisely the wrong, and incidentally the most expensive, thing for you to deal with. They congratulate themselves on their wisdom while they do their best to make it increasingly impossible for anyone to earn a living driving cab.
We won’t try to predict what the latest industry assessment from MLS staff (due in September) will be. Based on past and bitter experience, we hold out little to no hope for anything resembling effective relief.
What we really are calling for is for all segments of the industry, too often bitter opponents, to set aside long-standing grievances and work together to save what can be saved of and for your futures.
Cab owner/driver and long time industry gadfly Gerry Manley argues that an industry-wide association, collecting minimal dues from everyone, could quickly amass a sizeable war chest to hire lawyers and examine and pursue legal options that could effectively fight city hall and win desperately needed reparations.
In a letter reported in this month’s Taxi News, Manley says, in part, “What we can argue is that the City did not hold proper consultation on all of our issues, and that their actions are violating senior statutes, including their social contract obligations that have existed for over five decades,” he adds. “And therefore, because of the City’s actions, and the Province’s complicity in all of this, we are entitled to compensation.”
He says, “It can easily be proven that the City is violating senior statutes that make this bylaw ultra vires under many sections. And that would be my argument, which they (the courts) could rule on.”
And, he suggests, there are other legal courses available to industry members. “Perhaps,” Manley suggests compellingly, “looking down the barrel of a $2-billion-plus law suit might get the City’s, and the Province’s, attention.”
We would add a few suggestions. One starting point might be to request an independent forensic audit of Municipal Licensing and Standards accounts to determine if, contrary to Provincial law and Supreme Court of Canada decisions, money collected from the taxi and limousine industries is or has been siphoned off to regulate other license categories and/or other City accounts having nothing to do with taxi licensing. If licensing fees are being irregularly used, then action should be pursued though the appropriate courts.
Allegations that some parts of the Vehicle-For-Hire bylaw are contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms certainly deserve to be tested in court.
Perhaps a strong and well-funded industry association could approach Provincial Crown Attorneys and/or the Ontario Provincial Police with well-researched and documented allegations of impropriety at various government levels and see how the cards fall.
There may well be other new avenues and options available to you. You all owe it to yourself to try to find them.