Rita Smith remarks Toronto Police Services January 20, 2016
My name is Rita Smith, and I am the executive director of the TTA. However, I am not speaking on behalf of the TTA; I am speaking as a communications professional with 30 years’ experience at all levels of government and business.
You may recall that about 12 years ago and long before that, Toronto was being subject to an annual event at the end of the CNE.
Young people who were often drunk or high would run through the Ex grabbing stuffed animals, knocking over signs and generally creating mayhem that then spilled outside the Ex.
I recall an interview with the police chief at the time, and the firm message he delivered when he committed to preventing another episode of chaos:
“The criminal element in not in control of this city. The police are in control of this city, and we will stop this.”
And they did.
Fast forward to 2016, and citizens of Toronto are hearing a completely different message, one that does not inspire confidence.
Instead of hearing that police have the power and the intention to enforce the law, both the Mayor and the Chief of Police have told media “We cannot enforce the law against Uber.”
This is an incredible occurrence, unlike anything I have ever seen in my lifetime.
I have lost track of the number of times people call me, email me, or approach me at meetings and ask, “How can the Mayor say he can’t enforce the law?” or “How can the Chief of Police say he is powerless to enforce the law?”
From a communications point of view, this message is devastating.
Because EVERYBODY hears you say it: not just taxi drivers and Uber drivers.
Drug dealers heard it. Thieves heard it. Gang members heard it…shooters heard it.
No doubt, they rejoiced in hearing it!
Parents and kids heard it too. It did not inspire confidence.
Toronto has just experienced several bad months in terms of violence, shootings and murders.
Chief Saunders has referred to this as a “spike,” some kind of anomaly.
I suggest you need to look to your language, and stop making public declarations of the fact that you are incapable of enforcing the law.
Find a different reason for why you are choosing not to enforce the law against Uber.
But for Toronto’s sake, please stop using this one.
 This event was always referred to as “Black Monday.” However, given that I was looking our first black Police Chief, Mark Saunders, straight in the eye while I delivered these remarks, I opted to avoid that phrase. The mayhem was what it was; the colour of many of the perpetrators was irrelevant to the enforcement of the law. Because that’s what we hoped to talk about today: enforcing the law.
Remarks – Pre-Budget Consultations January 19th, 2016, Peterborough
Rita Smith, Executive Director, Toronto Taxi Alliance
Good morning and thank you for this opportunity to speak.
As this Committee undertakes the work of ensuring Ontario has the funds it needs to deliver important programs, I want to call your attention to a new threat to our financial security – the so-called “Sharing Economy.”
Firms like Uber and AirBnB are not “sharing.” They are avoiding the taxes paid by legal, legitimate transportation and hotel industries and enjoying an enormous competitive advantage by doing so.
This is not a new “sharing economy”; it’s the old Underground Economy. It’s not new, it’s not right, and it’s not good for Ontario.
Take Uber: every transaction conducted by Uber is processed in the Netherlands. Fortune magazine published a detailed description of how Uber avoids taxes all around the globe, describing the scheme as the “Double Dutch.”
It’s too complicated to explain in 3 minutes, however, I am providing each of you with a copy of this article and the convoluted diagrams used to describe how Uber takes a $100 taxi ride in Italy and turns it into a meagre 20 cents of income claimed in the Netherlands.
Uber uses the same system to avoid taxation in Canada.
Meanwhile, Uber uses the roads, infrastructure, snow removal and other services paid for with OUR tax dollars to make a profit, and then send that money overseas.
Uber is not helping to build Ontario; it exploits Ontario.
We wish every elected official would read this Fortune article before supporting the Underground Economy, which Statistics Canada notes generated $42 billion in 2012 and is growing at almost the same rate as the legitimate economy.
Legal taxi drivers in Ontario remitted millions of dollars in HST in 2015 – about $75 million in Toronto alone. This is in addition to the $15 million in fees the taxi industry pays the City of Toronto.
If the 20,000 cars Uber claims to have on the road were taxed at the same rate, Uber would be paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees.
It is not.
Would customers enjoy paying less for their rides if we did not have to collect taxes? Undoubtedly: Uber’s lower rates are a huge part of its draw.
Legitimate businesses are at an extreme disadvantage competing with operations which neither pay employees nor remit taxes.
In the month ahead, you will see tax-paying businesses go under as the Underground Economy grows.
We believe that Ontario is at an important crossroads as it creates Budget 2016.
You have an opportunity to commit to a level playing field for service providers and enforcement against tax evaders, and you must.
A legitimate business enterprise which pays taxes, fees, and insurance cannot compete with an Underground competitor which pays none of these things.
The “Sharing Economy” doesn’t share anything. It’s a soft, fuzzy term which hides the true nature of this Underground Economy and the damage it is doing to Ontario’s tax paying businesses.
To read Harvey Spiegel's legal opinion on why Toronto should seek an injunction against Uber, click here:
To view the City of Toronto L&S Committee Meeting video, click here. Harvey Spiegel's presentation begins at the 4 hours, 28 minute mark:
Jim Karygiannis, Councillor for Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt, moved a Motion asking City of Toronto solicitors to commence legal proceedings against Uber, based on the September 2015, City Council amendment to Chapter 545 of the City of Toronto Municipal Code (the Code) which changed the definition of “taxicab brokerage” to include the operations of the Uber.
The Motion was moved at the Licensing and Standard Committee and will proceed to City Council.:
“City Council direct the City Solicitor to return to Superior Court of Justice to seek an injunction against Uber based on the updated regulations to Municipal Code Chapter 545 approved by City Council at its meeting on September 30, October 1, and 2, 2015."
Mr. Karygiannis quoted the Executive Director of Licensing and Standards when the original injunction was filled in 2014.
“Uber has been operating since 2012 without a proper taxi brokerage license or limousine brokerage license. And Since September of 2014 (Uber) have been recruiting unlicensed drivers with unlicensed vehicles to provide taxi services.”
The City is concerned that Uber poses a serious risk to the public, including those who are signing on as drivers, for the following reasons:
- decreased passenger safety
- unregulated fares resulting in price gouging
- inadequate insurance that may not provide essential coverage to drivers and passengers in the event of an accident
- increased safety risk to the drivers due to lack of training and vehicle security equipment”
“The motion was moved due to a letter which was send to the City Solicitor from Affleck Greene McMurtry, on behalf of the Accessible Transportation Association of Ontario, questioning the City of Toronto’s willingness to enforce its own by-laws.” said Mr. Karygiannis.
“The enforcement of by-laws is the responsibility of the City of Toronto and the Toronto Police Service.” Mr. Karygiannis stated. “It should not be up to members of the public to access the Court in order to enforce City by-laws.”
Sam Moini, TTA remarks
Budget Committee January 12, 2016
Check against delivery
Good afternoon, and thank you for this opportunity to speak.
- As Budget Committee members tackle the work of balancing the budget, Toronto’s legal taxi industry would like to highlight some important points.
- Toronto’s legal taxi industry contributes about $15 million to the City’s bottom line every year, and we are proud to do so. We are part of the City, and we expect to pay our fair share.
- While the taxi industry is proud of the significant contribution it makes to fund important programs,
Uber pays nothing.
- Every member of the taxi industry pays multiple fees and charges every year. Issuing 532 Toronto Taxi Licenses alone raised $2.6 million dollars from legal cab drivers.
- Uber pays nothing.
- Every standard plate owner pays almost $1300 per year to the City to renew their plate. Ambassadors pay close to $800. Every driver pays $338.00
- Brokerages pay fees; owners pay fees; drivers pay fees. There are fees to go to cab school, and a fee for re-check after an inspection.
- Uber pays nothing.
- Since UberX has decimated our industry, many of our drivers have their backs right against the wall. They are struggling to keep their cars on the road; many are not even able to put food on their family’s table.
- How can Toronto expect legal taxi drivers whose income has been chopped in half to continue paying the same fees they have paid in years past?
- We cannot pay you with money we do not have.
- Where has the money gone? To Uber drivers who pay no fees.
- More importantly, To an illegal bottom line company to which we all know as Uber, which electronically processes every fare it generates in Toronto in the Netherlands, in order to avoid paying taxes in Canada.
- As long as we can earn a living, we have no issue with paying these fees. However, as taxpayers, we expect to see the City enforcing the law, and that is not happening. Uber is being allowed, even encouraged, to destroy the law-abiding taxi industry.
- Until there is a fair, just conclusion to this issue, and the laws of this city and country are enforced to its fullest against illegal operations such as uber we are asking city council not to charge any fees to the taxi industry. Though this will not come close to the income taxi drivers have lost it is only the fair thing to do.
- When this has been resolved, the legal taxi industry will be proud to pay its fair share.
- How can a city as great as Toronto, witness the destruction of the legal taxi industry by an illegal company who flaunts all laws and regulations for its own benefit?
- Is this the kind of City we wish to build?
- There is a direct link between Budget deliberations in January and Uber considerations in February. The legal taxi industry is trying to survive asking you to keep that in mind as you work.
- Thank you.
January 12, 2016 ( Toronto)—The Toronto Taxi Alliance (TTA) today reminds Toronto’s Budget Committee of the legal taxi industry’s contribution to the City’s bottom line.
“Every member of the taxi industry pays multiple fees and charges every year, contributing almost $15 million in total to Toronto’s annual budget,” said Moini, who points out that UberX drivers contribute absolutely nothing to Toronto’s bottom line while profiting from the use of Toronto’s infrastructure.
“We hope that in the months ahead, as Councillors debate the folly of allowing an unlicensed, unregulated foreign company to exploit the City’s infrastructure while contributing absolutely nothing to it, you will give some thought to the millions of dollars the legal taxi industry contributes to Toronto.”
Moini notes that until 2014, legal taxi industry members believed at least some of their money went to pay for enforcement of the law in Toronto. However, since UberX is being allowed to operate illegally and with impunity, taxi drivers are growing increasingly frustrated with the fees they are required to pay and many feel all fees and charges should be suspended entirely.
The owner of a Standard taxi plate pays a renewal fee of $1279.32 each and every year. Every taxi driver renewing his license pays $337.86. Toronto collects a transfer fee of $4983.33 every time a plate is issued or transferred. With the issuance of 532 Toronto Taxi License plates alone, for example, the City generated over $2.6 million.
“The training course every new taxi driver must take generates about $1 million per year,” Moini points out.
UberX drivers do not pay license fees; do not pay renewal or transfer fees; and are not required to take the City’s training course.
“This month, City Councillors are scrambling to find every dollar they can to protect important programs. Next month, they may be debating Uber. We urge Councillors to consider the link between budget shortfalls and the fact that the City is allowing an unregulated foreign competitor which uses City services to operate freely on our streets while contributing nothing.”
On January 7th, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti sent a letter to the Budget Committee asking that all taxi fees be suspended until the current review is completed.
Taxi drivers are also required to collect HST from the first dollar of business that they do, Moini points out, and according to the City’s own estimates of 65,000 rides per day at an average cost of $25, Toronto cabbies collect $75 million in HST each year. 8 per cent of that goes back to the province of Ontario, another $6 million contribution which benefits the City of Toronto.
UberX drivers do not collect HST.
“Are you aware that with every Uber transaction that takes place in Toronto, the revenues are sent overseas electronically to be processed in the Netherlands in order to avoid taxation in Canada?” Moini asked Councillors.
 A Framework for Change, 2014, Slide 5 http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2013/ls/bgrd/backgroundfile-59885.pdf
 A Framework for Change, 2014 Slide 5 http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2013/ls/bgrd/backgroundfile-59885.pdf
TTA figures based on these assumptions/info from City of Toronto and industry members: