City hall to watch Toronto legal action against Uber closely

Ottawa residents don’t want unregulated drivers shuttling people around for money, Coun. Mark Taylor said Wednesday.

Mr. Taylor, who heads the community and protective services committee that monitors the city’s taxi industry, said he thinks most Ottawans aren’t interested in using ride-sharing services such as Uber.

“(Ottawa residents) haven’t wanted it historically and I think the only reason why there hasn’t been a cry right now that they want it stopped immediately is because, thanks to God, we haven’t had any kind of negative incident recently in a bandit taxi,” he said.

The Bay councillor said he will be watching closely as the City of Toronto goes to Superior Court to try to stop Uber from operating there.

In the meantime, Mr. Taylor said he will continue working with local MPPs to persuade Queen’s Park to “give municipalities some teeth in terms of our bylaw teams so that we can address the issue of bandit taxis in our community.”

There is the question of whether the Uber issue resonates with citizens at all.

Mayor Jim Watson said it doesn’t, adding he didn’t hear a thing about Uber or the like while campaigning door-to-door during the recent election campaign.

“Not one single person to the best of my recollection over the last eight months raised this as a pressing issue,” he said. “We have a regulated taxi industry, as does every city in Canada, by the way, because if we didn’t, it would be a complete free-for-all and there would be no standards.”

Mr. Taylor said the majority of people who have contacted him in support of Uber still believe the San Francisco-based company should follow the rules.

While Toronto takes Uber to court, that city’s mayor-elect, John Tory, has raised some eyebrows by saying Uber is there to stay. Mr. Taylor said he doesn’t have a problem with that.

“The reality is there will be a time in this term of council, as there is in every one, where we review the taxi bylaws, the limousine bylaws,” he said. “If Uber would like to see changes, just like any company wanting to seek changes, they are free to lobby. We have a lobbyist registry. They can sign up, they can come, they can meet with us, they can come and present at committee. We would love to have them do that.”

Mr. Taylor said current bylaws touch on accessibility, equitability and safety, and if Uber comes up with changes to the law that keeps those three pillars, that would be “fair ball.”

“I’m happy to bring Uber in, but Uber has to be willing to be brought in,” he said. “To date, in every city that they’ve visited, Uber has adopted the same – regardless of what those city’s regulations were – Uber has adopted the same philosophy, which is we are not changing our business model, we are not adapting at all to local concerns.”

OBJ asked Uber to comment on how the company’s Ottawa experiment has gone so far and on the legal action in Toronto.

“Any attempt to restrict consumer choice and limit economic opportunity does nothing but hurt the thousands of residents and visitors who already rely on Uber for safe, affordable and reliable transportation,” the company said. “We look forward to continuing to provide the people of Toronto with the Uber they know and love, as we continue to work with city officials to create a permanent home for Uber in Toronto."

There was no mention of Ottawa.