City council won't seek a court injunction against Uber for now
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, February 3, 2016 5:01PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 3, 2016 5:59PM EST
City council has opted to not seek another court injunction against Uber for the time being, though the door remains open to potential legal action down the road.
A motion before council on Wednesday initially called for the city to seek an injunction against Uber and individual UberX drivers, however the motion was subsequently amended by Mayor John Tory to include language that would prevent an injunction from being sought until it is deemed “appropriate” by legal advisors.
Tory’s amendment, which carried 39-3, was made after councillors heard advice from the city’s lawyers during a two-hour long in-camera session earlier in the day.
“The professional advice we received was that we were not going to have the best chance at being successful if an injunction was brought at this time,” Tory told reporters at city hall following the vote. “When we go forward with an application it should be one that we are going to win. In this case, I believe the best course of action we can follow is to listen to our objective and professional advisers.”
The motion seeking an immediate injunction was initially brought forward by Coun. Jim Karygiannis and then supported by the city’s licensing and standards committee.
Though Karygiannis did vote in favour of Tory’s amendment he told CP24 that he only did so because he felt that voting against it would send the wrong message to Uber.
“The words were ‘when appropriate.’ I think it is appropriate now (to file an injunction). Those words shouldn’t have been in it but if I didn’t vote for the motion I would be signaling to Uber that I support them,” he said. “The appropriate time is now.”
City sought an injunction last year
The city previously sought an injunction to put the brakes on Uber’s Toronto operations last year but in July an Ontario Superior Court justice ruled that the company didn’t need a licence to operate under current city bylaws and threw out the case.
The motion that was before council today was brought forward in light of a temporary injunction granted against Uber in Calgary and changes made to Toronto’s Municipal Code in October that seemingly banned the service.
Speaking with reporters at city hall, Tory admitted that the present situation “is not fair for taxi drivers” but he said by seeking an injunction now the city may jeopardize the drafting of new regulations that are intended to level the playing field for the entire ground transportation industry.
Those regulations are expected to be tabled in March and brought to city council in the spring.
“Starting the months-long process of pursuing an injunction now may delay dozens of ongoing charges before the courts and it would also force city staff to stop working on bylaws that are long overdue, bylaws which will create a regulatory framework that is fair to all parties,” Tory said. “I have always been clear that I believe bringing Uber under new regulations, which provide fairness and equity for all, is the best course of action and I believe city council has an opportunity to finally address the outdated system here in Toronto by listening to city staff.”
A large crowd of taxi drivers were on hand for Wednesday’s debate and at one point things grew heated with several of the drivers shouting obscenities at members of city council and accusing them of “supporting illegal operators.”
One man even had to be escorted out by police after he refused to leave the council floor.
“I can understand their frustration. When somebody says something so blatantly against you, when you are in the fight of your life, when you are in the fight of your family’s life, things are going to come out,” fleet operator and industry spokesperson Sam Moini told reporters at city hall. “They want to protect their family. That’s all they want to do. You can’t blame them for how they are going to react.”
Taxi drivers have long contended that Uber enjoys an unfair competitive advantage because its drivers are not subject to the same regulations that cab drivers are.
Uber, however, has maintained that it is a technology company and shouldn’t be subject to rules designed with conventional cabs in mind.
"An Ontario Supreme Court ruling, Municipal Licensing and Standards, Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council have all recognized that Uber and ridesharing is a unique business in need of a new regulatory framework,” the company said in a statement following Wednesday’s vote. “We will continue to work with city officials towards new regulations this spring that benefit Toronto’s hundreds of thousands of riders and drivers who want safe, affordable and reliable transportation options."