TORONTO – Tensions between Toronto taxi drivers and ride-hailing company Uber appeared somewhat soothed Monday after a meeting with the city’s mayor, who promised to regulate both services under one bylaw.
Some frustrated cab drivers had threatened to protest during the Pan Am games, which begin in Toronto on Friday, but a Toronto Taxi Alliance spokesman said after the meeting with Mayor John Tory he is encouraging drivers not to disrupt the games.
“We will do our best on that part, however, we expect to be treated fairly,” said Sam Moini.
“The drivers are suffering, and they’re suffering bad. It’s an emotional thing for me. It’s an emotional thing for all the drivers.”
Ian Black, general manager of Uber Toronto, said the meeting was “productive” and that Uber will operate throughout the Pan Am games, despite calls from the taxi industry to shut down the app.
“We will continue to serve the city of Toronto,” Black said. “The faster this process can go forward, the better. There’s UberX drivers, there’s passengers, there’s taxi drivers all in the city who are looking for the solution, but they’re complicated matters and we’ll work through them.”
Taxi industry officials weren’t entirely placated after the meeting, as some heckled Black while he spoke to media, shouting “no” and “not legal” when he said UberX operates legally in the city.
Toronto city council will work to come up with a bylaw in the fall, Tory said.
“What we have today is not a level playing field. We have a situation where one segment of the industry is highly regulated, competing against another that is not,” Tory said after the meeting.
“We cannot have a wild west, but we also cannot have a city that ignores the march of time. Technologies like Uber are here to stay but they have to be regulated.”
Monday’s meeting was held after an Ontario court sided with Uber on Friday in a case where the City of Toronto sought a permanent injunction on the company’s operations.
The city had argued Uber is a taxi company and must abide by city regulations, but Superior Court Judge Sean Dunphy dismissed the application. There was “no evidence” the company operates as a taxi broker or that it breached city bylaws, he said.
Uber had argued it is a communications service that connects passengers and drivers, and therefore wasn’t subject to the city’s bylaws.
In his decision, Dunphy said the city’s definition of a taxi brokerage as any service that connects passengers and drivers is too broad, and said the issue should not be resolved in court.
Tory, however, maintained on Monday that the company’s UberX application — which pairs passengers with ordinary drivers — is operating outside current laws. He said the city will likely file an appeal to Dunphy’s decision.
“The most important thing to note is not about business and is not about regulation; it’s about human beings who are cab drivers, who are trying to earn a living performing a service we need,” Tory said, adding that UberX is a “disruptive technology” that has harshly affected the city’s taxi drivers.