Taxi driver files application to halt UberX from operating in Toronto
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Monday, March 14, 2016 1:24PM EDT
A Toronto taxi driver has filed an application for an injunction to stop the UberX ride service from operating in the city.
In a news release issued Monday, the driver’s lawyer said the app-based ride service contravenes the city’s bylaws and should be barred from operating. The application was filed in Ontario Superior Court Monday.
“Toronto’s bylaws are very clear: only someone licensed as a taxicab driver may operate a vehicle for hire in the city,” lawyer Jay Strosberg said in the release.
Toronto City Council passed new bylaws in October 2015 that sought to constrain Uber. However the service has continued to operate in the city, relatively unencumbered.
While Toronto police have laid charges against some drivers, they have said they don’t have the resources to chase down every improper transaction in the city.
City council considered filing an application for an injunction against Uber in February, but decided not to after lawyers for the city advised that such an application would be unlikely to succeed. An application filed against the service last year was thrown out by a judge in July after he found that UberX did not violate existing city bylaws.
City staff are currently in the process of drafting more comprehensive bylaws around ride-sharing services. Speaking with reporters Monday, Tory said he expects the new bylaws to be ready very soon.
“There will in fact be a draft policy brought forward next month. We’re now down to a matter of weeks,” he said.
He added that any application for an injunction will likely take months before getting to court.
“By then I hope we will be well advanced in the passage of new bylaws,” he said.
However Strosberg said that while taxi drivers welcome new bylaws, the city doesn’t nmeed to wait to enforce its current rules.
“I think it’s great that he’s looking at a new regulatory regime, but the issue of whether or not you should enforce the bylaw – they’re two different issues and I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive,” Strosberg said in an interview with CP24 Monday.
Taxi drivers have been locked in a battle with Uber and the city over the ride service’s aggressive disruption of the existing ride-for-hire market.
While taxi drivers have operated for decades under heavy municipal regulations and fees, UberX, which allows ordinary people to offer rides at rates that are often substantially cheaper, has claimed that it is not a taxi service and is therefore not subject to the same rules. Taxi drivers have said they have watched their livelihoods evaporate as they are deeply undercut.
“He’s a very hardworking man,” Strosberg said of his client. “He finds now he’s having to work double the amount of hours to earn the same net income as before Uber came into the city.”
Angry about the lack of enforcement, taxi drivers have lashed out against the city and Mayor Tory with noisy protests that have disrupted traffic along major routes.
Most recently a large group of taxi drivers threatened to protest at venues hosting events for the NBA All-Star Weekend in the city last month. That protest was averted at the last minute after the drivers agreed to “postpone” the protest.
Responding to the move on Monday, Uber spokesperson Susie Heath called the application “unfortunate.”
“Over the last year we have made significant progress in Toronto, and with new regulations coming as early as this spring, it's unfortunate that the Toronto Taxi Alliance has once again chosen to focus their efforts on stalling progress rather than working together for the best interests of all Torontonians,” Heath said in an email. “An Ontario Supreme Court ruling, ML&S, Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council have all recognized that Uber and ridesharing is a unique business in need of a new regulatory framework - we believe the best path forward for riders, drivers and our city is to continue that work to update regulations which will benefit both ridesharing and taxi alike.”