Veteran advocate concludes only way to fight city hall is in the courts
by Mike Beggs
Under the threat of license revocation, veteran cab driver Gerry Manley has finally ended his protracted protest against the City of Toronto during which the outspoken industry advocate refused to pay his license fees to Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards.
For the past year, he has waged a single-handed boycott to draw attention to the City’s alleged, “unfairness, lack of common sense, and conflicts of statute (contained in its controversial new Vehicle-For-Hire Bylaw), and inability to enforce it.”
On August 10, he finally paid up the City’s new $130 Driver’s Fee for taxi owners, and $1,100-plus Renewal fee for his taxi plate.
But not without bitterness about the City’s heavy-handed regulation of taxis down through the decades -- coming to a head with the creation of the new Bylaw, which industry leaders say tilts the balance of power in Uber’s favour. He sent out countless dispatches over the past year to municipal and provincial figures across the board, outlining the bylaw’s “illegalities, errors, and indiscretions, which are adversely affecting the City’s taxi and livery industries’ 12,000-plus members,” while also wiping out important consumer protections.
But he failed to receive even one response addressing his concerns. (This reflects taxi industry frustrations as a whole, as the July 15 deadline for the one-year Review of the VFH Bylaw passed, without a word from Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards executive director Tracey Cook).
“The disdain I have for the municipal and provincial governments in Ontario is almost beyond words,” he tells Taxi News. “They just refuse (to acknowledge us). Not one response to any of my letters, which were addressing some serious violations.
“It’s what they’re doing to 10,000 people with whom they married into a social contract (that really bothers me).”
Manley has long maintained that the City’s only interest in the cab industry is as a licensing cash cow. He notes, for example, that Total Applicable Fees to plate owners have climbed far in excess of legitimate cost recovery, in clear violation of a longstanding provincial directive.
And sure enough, it was only the refusal to pay his upcoming fees Ð for a second straight year -- which prompted communication from Director of Licensing Annalisa Mignardi, and the Manager of Licensing and Administrative Services Vehicles-For-Hire Marcia Stoltz, in early August. They quoted him the bylaw sections for licensing renewal requirements -- and warned that the City would cancel his taxi owner’s license, and charge him with Driving Without A License, but failed to address any of the many issues he raised with municipal officials.
Manley says he had no choice but to capitulate, prior to the August 23, 2017 deadline.
“Since the City has destroyed the value of my business, I cannot afford to lose what little value is left on my taxi owner’s license. And I still need to work to survive”, says Manley, despite the City’s decades-long promise that his plate would one day serve as his pension.
“Here I am at 73, I can’t rest. I followed the rules they drew up.”
He finds it equally frustrating that Toronto councillors and bureaucrats, “don’t even know their own bylaw”, while making such devastating decisions concerning the lives and livelihoods of their many thousands of licensees.
“I’ve read this whole bylaw through probably five times and I’m still confused,” he adds. “You can’t digest it in one swoop, because there is so much wrong with it.”
Since the new bylaw came into effect on July 15, 2016, Manley has refused to pay the new $130 Driver’s Fee slapped on owner/operators, the idea of which he deems “ridiculous”, after four decades behind the wheel. (By contrast, he notes that Uber X drivers can simply sign up with Uber, which pays a $15 per driver licensing fee to the City).
He has also been withholding his annual plate renewal, pointing to “a clear inequity”, with Standard plate owners forced to pay for their renewals (over $1,100), “while there are other categories within the bylaw that do not”, like Toronto Taxi License holders.
“Why should I pay two licensing fees, (and they) don’t have to?” he asks.
“And in my opinion, there is a section contained in the bylaw that shows a taxi owner is exempt from requiring a Vehicle-For-Hire driver’s license.”
What’s more, Manley claims the VFH bylaw violates the equal rights and protection guaranteed all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedom. And in a letter to Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Bill Mauro -- whose Ministry granted the City of Toronto its ultra-broad licensing powers, under the City of Toronto Act in 2006 -- he requested, “an immediate intervention by your Ministry to put a stop to the carnage.”
He maintains the new bylaw is “ultra vires”, and suggests the entire code be quashed, and rewritten from scratch to encompass the Uber X app-based service in a fair and equitable manner for all.
“It is illegal, because it violates and is in conflict with several senior statutes (such as the Compensation Act, the Family Act, and the Succession Act),” he claims. “But we can’t fight them on the issue of bylaw violations, because the City of Toronto Act is too strong. It gives the City powers to put the bylaw any way they want.
“I went to every single meeting of the Reformation, and not once were PTC’s (Private Transportation Companies) ever discussed,” he continues. “That violates directives. This (new bylaw) was all done administratively, and they just went to Council to approve it.”
Manley believes the City has been moving the taxi industry towards deregulation for years Ð thereby violating the social contract it struck with he and his fellow taxi owners promising to respect and protect the value of their business in exchange for their many years of dedicated and conscientious service.
By granting Uber virtually unlimited access to the Toronto taxi market under the VFH bylaw, the City has flooded the streets with an estimated 40,000 Uber X cars competing with the existing 10,000 taxis and limos Ð 10 times the number of vehicles Manley estimates the market will bear!
He maintains the City had a “tried and true” licensing formula for years, before it was replaced by a questionable “indicator model”. The City began pumping out additional and unnecessary plates in the early 1980s and then opened the spigots in the 1990s, and 2000’s, says Manley, driving down Standard plate values, while cutting the economic pie ever thinner and thinner for the industry’s beleaguered taxi drivers.
“We gave up an awful lot when we received our plates. We said, ‘Just give us an opportunity to make a living,’” he recalls. “Slowly but surely, they’ve been destroying that for us.”
“If you check (cities like Dublin or Montreal) where deregulation has occurred, 100 percent, it has failed. They’ve had to go back to reregulate. This is a destructive force, from governments who have no idea what’s going to happen to guys in the industry. And in the end, who will have to pay for the social assistance?”
Manley suggests this is all predicated on the new Shared Economy model of utilizing part-time workers, who have no benefits and make no contributions.
“They have no company pension. Who’s going to support them? The government has to,” he adds.
He also alleges the City acted illegally in sub-delegating licensing powers to Uber under the new PTC category Ð leaving Uber to oversee the screening and insurance of its drivers, as well as vehicle inspections. Coupled with the elimination of the MLS Vehicle Inspection Centre, and Driver Training School, and making optional security cameras in Uber X cars, taxi industry leaders suggest the City has created a “race to the bottom” in the vehicle for hire industry.
And of the widespread rumours that Uber X drivers are routinely not affixing the required stickers on their cars, and are brazenly picking up street hails, Manley says, “You’ve got to remember, a bylaw is a piece of paper. And it’s only as good as its enforcement.”
“There are only 10 inspectors to enforce a bylaw against approximately 50,000 vehiclesÐ and remember, they don’t have the right to stop you, you have to be stationary,” he elaborates. “How many times have I told them, ‘Why don’t you apply to the Ministry of Transport to give inspectors the right to stop a vehicle?’ No, they’re useless.”
The riding public’s seemingly blind love of Uber X only serves to compound the industry’s problems.
“The public is not well-informed. The only thing they look at is ‘What can I save?’” he says. “And they’re taking a tremendous risk, because I doubt 20 percent of these guys have the proper insurance.”
At this stage in his career, Manley believes, “Our industry will never receive a political or bureaucratic solution to our issues”, noting that has been borne out by the way his inquiries have been ignored over the past year. (He also asked to be taken before the Toronto Licensing Tribunal, in order to air his concerns, but that never happened either).
“Not one of those groups, or individuals responded to even one of my allegations,” he comments.
“The Mayor, the Councillors, the MP’s, the MPP’s, the Province, the Premier, as elected officials, they’re supposed to be there to protect our interests. Whatever happened to that?” he asks. “And the bureaucrats are paid from our tax dollars. I think there should be a responsibility for them to respond to us.”
With COTA in place, he suggests fighting for bylaw changes at city hall is “a waste of time” for the cab industry, because, “the City can write anything they want into this bylaw, and we cannot refute that right.”
“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.”
Manley has already received one legal opinion showing, “there is more than enough evidence to proceed with a court case,” but he does not have the resources to go forward on his own.
“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 could rule on,” he says. “(So), there are other paths available to me, and all our industry members.”
“Perhaps looking down the barrel of a $2-billion-plus law suit might get the City’s, and the Province’s, attention.”