Toronto City Hall committee votes against legalization of Uber

Everyone knew it was too good to be true.

On Friday evening, the licensing and standards committee determined in a 5-1 vote to approve a package of reforms for the ground transportation industry, but also moved to strike several of recommendations that would legalize Uber.

Just two weeks ago, the City of Toronto issued a set of recommendations for regulating Uber while allowing the taxicabs to continue operating uncontested.

Since then, several critiques of these suggestions have come forward, including those that argued Uber would be operating under the strictest legislation it’s ever faced in Toronto. The City, however, stated that the goal of the draft was to equalize the transportation industry for all vehicles for hire, which include taxicabs and private transportation companies like Uber.

Neither the taxicab industry nor Uber were satisfied with these proposals. On Thursday and Friday, according to a Globe and Mail report, almost 100 people came to City Hall to register their opinion on the new rules. Most of these protesters were assumed to be taxicab supporters.

Though Uber didn’t send representatives, the company did release a formal response to the proposed rules. Uber argued that there was no need to restrict the age of its drivers’ cars to seven years or younger. It also took issue with the proposed fees for drivers and was uneasy about sharing their transportation data with the city.

Uber and the taxicabs have been at odds since their entrance into Toronto in 2014. Since then, many attempts have been made on the part of the city to prosecute Uber under the law, with little success.

However, earlier this month, the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario reached out to the MaRs Discovery District, one of Canada’s well-known innovation hubs, for suggestions in regulating products of the sharing economy, such as Uber.

Their suggestions included improving and updating regulations around insurance, training and public safety. What emerged from this report, entitled “Shifting Perspectives,” was a set of recommendations put forward by the City of Toronto which claimed to take the analysis provided by the report’s authors into mind.

The resulting proposed legislation was hailed by Canadian media as the great equalizer. While the taxicabs had finally been freed, Uber now faced a longer list of boundaries and requirements than it ever had in Toronto.

Despite the initial intention of the proposed bylaw, coined the Vehicle for Hire Bylaw, which enveloped taxicabs, limos and private transportation companies under one piece of legislation, the days that followed were riddled with aggressive and heated debate.

It became clear on Friday evening that neither Uber nor the taxicab drivers were as satisfied as the City had hoped. Early in May, city council will discuss the proposed changes of the licensing and standards committee and will choose whether or not to take their recommendations into account.

When it comes to legalizing Uber in Toronto, it looks like it’s back to the drawing board.

Related Reading: Over 100 recommendations proposed for regulating Uber in Toronto

[source]The Globe and Mail[/source]