Long-running fight for fair taxicab insurance takes new twist
by Mike Beggs
Toronto owner/operator Gerry Manley is hoping he has “hit a nerve” in his long-time push for “fair” taxi insurance rates in Ontario.
This comes after the receipt of an August 20 phone call from Tom Golfetto, Executive Director, Automobile Insurance Division, Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to discuss his many concerns. (Golfetto had been contacted by the Ministry of Finance and instructed to call him, after Manley had filed several requests with Finance Minister Charles Sousa for a meeting to discuss issues involving the taxi industry.)
Manley deemed it “a very fruitful conversation.” He notes the FSCO Report from 2014 recommended that the taxi industry form a committee made up of automobile insurers, brokers, and taxi industry representatives to break bread on insurance issues. But, he claims it would be a “near impossibility” for a taxicab owner, like himself, to get all of these entities together at one table, “because we all look at this from very different perspectives.”
More to the point, he believes without the Ministry’s intervention, such a committee will never happen, “because the insurance industry will not want scrutiny of its taxi rates, as it has with private vehicle insurance coverage.
“For the Ministry to suggest that I should get the insurance companies together and form a committee, which was FSCO’s recommendation during their 3-year review in 2014, is asinine at best,” he alleges. “It was apparent to me, Mr. Golfetto thought that idea was farfetched, as well.”
“I believe it is incumbent on the Minister to form such a committee, as all taxicab owners are mandated to be insured while travelling on any Ontario highway, the same as any other vehicle owner and/or operator. And as the private vehicle sector comes under FSCO protection, so should the taxicab owner.”
In an August 16 email to Sousa’s office, a frustrated Manley had alleged, “It is difficult to believe that the Minister cannot find at least one hour some time in the ensuing months, granted his busy schedule, to (line up) a meeting to address very serious issues surrounding taxicab insurance in Ontario, which are negatively affecting thousands of cab owners throughout the Province, not just in the City of Toronto. It is his electoral duty and responsibility to protect all persons requiring vehicle insurance in Ontario, and that duty is not being adhered to when it comes to taxicabs.”
Manley had requested a meeting with Sousa, “to discuss changes which need to be implemented, to protect our members from being gouged by the insurance companies and their agents.”
For four decades now, he has been fighting this apparent double standard, where private citizens can shop for individual rates but cab drivers cannot.
“When I first came into the industry, I tried to obtain insurance on my own and the insurance industry at all levels refused me and forced me to join a group, just to apply for coverage,” he relates.
He has contacted his group leader for insurance (Mike Tranquada, president of Independent Toronto Taxi Inc.) on several occasions, asking him to bring his concerns forward to the group’s broker, and insurance company.
“He informed me he can’t even get them to talk about why our rates keep climbing annually -- when our group, last year, showed over a $1-million profit. Yet the rates went up again,” he relates.
Manley adamantly maintains that with FSCO recently involving itself in a fleet coverage scenario surrounding ride-sharing companies like Uber, the Ministry can no longer use the “excuse” that there isn’t anything that can be done for the taxi industry, because there is no legislation to cover groups and/or fleets.
“That line has obviously been crossed, and the taxi industry is asking to be treated in like kind,” he says.
“Legislation is long overdue to be enacted in this province to protect our industry and other groups and fleets, as well,” he continues. “Queen’s Park’s reluctance to have rules and regulations for our membership and other groups and fleets violates the Charter of Equality Rights, where every Canadian is guaranteed equal protection, and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. We are only asking for government protection surrounding our vehicle insurance, as you give to the private car owner.”
He reiterates that since all policy for insurance is initiated by the Ministry, and not FSCO, “It has be the Ministry that would authorize the requested meeting.”
“I believe it is necessary to show Minister Sousa that I have made efforts to bring all the entities to the table, and they refuse -- which I believe is because they don’t want to have to file their rates with FSCO, and be scrutinized,” he alleges. “Without the Ministry’s assistance in forming this much-needed committee….our taxi members will always be paying rates that truly do not reflect any level of fairness.”
In a seeming conundrum, Manley observes that while FSCO has no powers to make policy, “much of the policy set by the Ministry does come from recommendations made by FSCO in its insurance Reviews.”
And because this Review is an every three-year procedure, he’s calling on FSCO Superintendent Brian Mills to address a change in the next report, or even sooner if possible.
Recommendation 10 in the 2014 report called for, “the taxicab industry, automobile insurers and brokers to form a committee to explore and make recommendations to expand the availability of taxi insurance, and optional coverage for rental vehicles.”
Manley wants that to be amended to read, “It is recommended that the Minister of Finance form the committee”. He feels this is the only way this committee will ever come to fruition.