Why does City of Toronto require licensed taxi owners to also obtain a Vehicle for Hire Driver’s License?
by Mike Beggs
(Editor’s note: This is the second installment in Taxi News’s series on veteran industry observer Gerry Manley’s monthly letters addressing the many flaws and outright failures inherent in the City of Toronto’s calamitous 2016 Vehicle-For-Hire Bylaw. Readers interested in reading the original Manley letter featured in this article will find it posted in full on taxinews.com.)
In the second letter in Gerry Manley’s series, dated September 1, 2018, he challenges the new bylaw’s “Changes In Your Taxicab License” provi btain a Vehicle For Hire (VFH) Driver’s License, at a cost of $130 (while PTC drivers are able to simply sign up with the company, which pays a $15 per driver licensing fee to the City).
Manley is calling for the entire VFH bylaw to be junked and rewritten, and in his mind this “clear inequity” would be the starting point. Again in 2018, he waged a one-man boycott of this $130 fee (as well as his $1,062 plate renewal fee), only paying up in August when the MLS threatened to revoke his owner’s license.
“It’s ridiculous that after more than four decades as a taxi driver, I need a license to drive,” he states.
He claims when he entered the Toronto taxi business in 1973, Chapter 545 provided for the owner’s license to be endorsed for the owner to also act as a driver – in effect permission to drive his own cab.
“Forty-three years later Bylaw 546 comes along, and that all changed,” he says incredulously.
“This decision exemplifies the numerous and unfair obligations contained in this bylaw, which are not only in conflict with the bylaw itself, but in violation of senior statutes as well.”
According to Manley, when he enquired why this change was made, the MLS responded that they wanted to have two distinct taxicab owner’s categories -- one being a driver, and one being a non-driver.
But by removing these taxicab owner’s rights, he alleges, “The only thing the City achieved was to punish a taxicab owner who drives his or her own taxicab, by adding a second licensing fee -- whereas other categories operating within the definition of a taxi business are either paying only one licensing fee, or no licensing fee whatsoever.”
“Could there be an underlying reason for the requirement to have this license?” he writes. “When you consider Chapter 546 has given exemptions to numerous licensing categories named in the bylaw and for others outside the bylaw, is this additional license requirement perhaps to make up for the licensing revenue shortfalls surrounding those exemptions?”
What’s more, Manley believes Chapter 546 still grants permission for a taxicab owner to drive his or her own cab, without first having to obtain a VFH driver’s license. By mandating this, he claims the City has created a conflict within the bylaw.
He notes, “My taxicab owner’s license categorizes me as a taxicab owner, not a taxicab driver, and it clearly states, LICENSE- “To Operate” - As - TAXICAB OWNER.”
He cites other parts of Chapter 546 which he believes reinforce his argument.
“I manage my own taxicab, by bylaw definition I am a taxicab operator exempted from requiring an operator’s license. So, why do I require a VFH driver’s license?” he asks.
In a letter to Manley dated June 29, 2018, MLS manager of licensing and administration services Alex Xu responded that his interpretation of Chapter 546 with respect to taxicab operators is incorrect. “There is a definition of “taxicab operator” that specially excludes vehicle-for-hire drivers who operate a taxicab,” she wrote.
However, Manley steadfastly maintains that under Chapter 546, as a taxicab owner who manages his own taxi he is exempt from the requirement to obtain an operator’s license, making Xu’s argument, “a moot point”.
“If the City wants a taxicab owner who drives his or her own vehicle to obtain a VFH driver’s license, then the requirement to obtain a taxicab owner’s license would have to be abolished, as requiring two separate City business licenses for a taxi owner to drive his or her own taxi is totally unnecessary,” he adds.
Manley also emphasizes that, effective July of 2017, under the Federal Excise Tax Act the definition of a taxi business was changed to include, “if the transportation is arranged, or coordinated through an electronic platform.”
“No longer can than the City of Toronto, or any other municipality in Ontario or throughout Canada, try to hide the fact that companies like Uber and Lyft are operating a taxi business by categorizing them differently than the City’s established taxi business under the guise of being a PTC, or their drivers being PTC drivers,” he observes. “With a federal statute defining what a taxi business is, Toronto’s governing bylaw for this industry must follow suit, as the federal Act’s definition supersedes any municipal bylaw’s definition.”
And since the City of Toronto is not categorizing all of the entities operating a taxi business in an equal manner, as per the federal definition, he questions, “Why should I, or any other member of the Toronto taxi industry require a VFH Driver’s License, or any other applicable business license, if parity is not being applied in their licensing schemes?”
He claims this makes the whole VFH bylaw, “ultra vires”, and that the City is also violating the federal Charter of Rights of Freedoms, Equality Rights, which states, “Every individual is equal before and under the law, and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.”
“These abuses of authority have led to a lack of consumer protection, that is in violation of the City of Toronto Act (COTA), Part II,” he adds.
And alleging the City has demonstrated, “a lack of caring, understanding, industry knowledge, fairness, and an inability to legislate a fair and level playing field for all”, he’s calling for an intervention by the Province, which grants them right to license the taxi industry under COTA (2006).
Furthermore, he reasons that with PTC’s now federally defined as operating a taxi business, their drivers must, likewise, comply with the Chapter 546 requirement to get a VFH driver’s license, “which they presently do not have”.
“This shows the bylaw is not being fairly enforced for all categories who carry on a VFH taxi business,” he continues.
“This makes Chapter 546 in violation of the Excise Tax Act, as neither PTC’s nor their drivers are being licensed or regulated as operating in a taxi business as defined in the Act.”
And since this requirement is not being enforced on PTC drivers, he argues this absolves him from this requirement, as well.
Manley then turns his eye to several private companies carrying on a Vehicle-For-Hire wheelchair accessible van business, without any requirement to obtain a Toronto taxi business license. He has brought this to the attention of the City on numerous occasions.
“Although (MLS executive director) Tracey Cook claims the structure, or wording is not presently contained in this bylaw to license these companies and their drivers, that is not the case,” he contends.
“May I also suggest that Ms. Cook review the entire definition of a taxi business in the federal Excise Tax Act.”
On behalf of the entire Toronto taxi industry and their families, Manley has requested a meeting with the Premier, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the Ministry of Transportation, and the CEO of Metrolinx to address, “the need to enact fair legislation” for for-hire vehicles in Toronto. To date, there has been no progress.
However, he has long been embittered by the indifference, and heavy-handedness with which the City deals with its’ taxi industry.
“It goes beyond frustrating. It’s just wrong. How can you make a law, and then you don’t abide by your own law? And when I point it out to you, you still do whatever you want,” he comments. “They can get away with it, because there’s only one person complaining. Again, one voice is not going to do it.”
To his mind, this just goes to show, “we don’t have a democracy.”
“We can’t get our elected representatives, at any level, to step in and resolve this,” he alleges.
“The bottom line of it all is, we’re a licensing cash cow and they’ve treated us that way for decades. And they don’t care about the end result of their actions.”