WHY IS A TORONTO TAXPAYER BRINGING THIS INJUNCTION?

BACKGROUND

WHY IS A TORONTO TAXPAYER BRINGING THIS INJUNCTION?

On November 18, 2014, the City of Toronto brought an application for an injunction to stop Uber from operating its UberX platform in Toronto. At a press conference announcing the application, Tracey Cook, the executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards Division, the agency responsible for the enforcement of the City’s licensing bylaws, stated:

Uber has been operating since 2012 without a proper taxi brokerage license or a limousine brokerage license and since September of 2014 have been recruiting unlicensed drivers with unlicensed vehicles to provide taxi services

Uber’s unregulated status puts people in harm’s way due to unregulated fares resulting in alleged price gouging, inadequate insurance, increased safety risk to the drivers due to lack of training.

In her sworn affidavit filed in support of the City’s application, Cook also made the following statements:

…Uber is operating in flagrant disregard of the City's licensing regime, even while it aggressively promotes and expands its services and continues to recruit drivers.

…the longer that Uber continues to operate in the City, the greater the potential for damage to the taxi and limousine industries … the City has an interest in the long-term sustainability of the industry because it is an important part of the public transportation network.

I am also concerned about Uber vehicles increasing congestion in Toronto and particularly, the downtown core, which is a key consideration the City makes when determining the appropriate number of taxicabs. It is important to the economic and environmental well-being of the City and beneficial to public health for the City to reduce vehicular traffic when possible; increasing the number of vehicles operating as taxis and limousines will do the opposite.

Therefore, for the protection of public safety, consumers, and the economic and environmental well-being of Toronto, the City is seeking clear direction that Uber must cease its operations immediately. It is important to the City and to the public that the issues raised in this application be determined quickly, on an urgent basis.

The City’s 2014 injunction application failed because the Court found that narrow definitions of Taxicab Broker and Limousine Service Company in the Municipal Code, which focused on the acceptance of a communication from a prospective passenger of taxi or limousine services  , did not capture the activities carried on by Uber

Following this decision, the City amended these definitions in the Code to clearly capture Uber’s activities.

Yet, Uber continues to knowingly break the law, but now it is doing so with 15,000-20,000 primarily non-licensed taxicabs instead of an estimated 6000 in 2014. The traffic congestion in Toronto, particularly in the downtown core, has increased exponentially as has the harm to the economic and environmental well-being of the City.

The potential for damage to the taxi and limousine industries that existed in 2014 has become a stark reality that threatens the long-term sustainability of an industry that in Ms. Cook’s words, is an important part of the City’s public transportation network.

In 2014, the City asked the Court to act on an urgent basis to direct Uber to cease its unlicensed operations immediately for the protection of public safety, consumers, and the economic and environmental well-being of Toronto.

Yet today, despite the greater harm being caused to the citizens of Toronto by Uber’s  illegal activities, the City, due to the efforts of Mayor Tory. has refused to take any meaningful action to prevent that harm, by enforcing  a bylaw that it recently amended specifically for that purpose.

It is for this reason that exercising his right as a taxpayer under the City of Toronto Act, the Applicant, a licensed taxicab driver, is today doing what Mayor Tory should have done months ago, namely asking the Court to order that Uber cease its illegal operations immediately.    

 

INJUNCTION APPLICATION FILED TO STOP UBER X FROM OPERATING IN TORONTO

Action Comes After Mayor John Tory Delays Injunction Request

TORONTO (March 14, 2016) – An application for an injunction was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice by a City of Toronto taxpayer, who is also a taxicab driver. The applicant is seeking an order restraining and preventing all UberX drivers from continuing to provide taxicab services for UberX in Toronto.

The legal basis for the injunction is that under the City of Toronto Act, a taxpayer may bring an application to the Court seeking an order restraining someone from conducting activities that contravene Toronto’s bylaws.

A similar process was followed in Calgary where the injunction was granted.

In October 2015, Toronto’s bylaws were amended and clearly state that only someone licensed as a taxicab driver may operate a taxicab in Toronto.  Under the recently amended bylaw, UberX drivers are considered taxicab drivers, but do not have the license required to legally operate a taxicab in Toronto as required by the bylaw. The law prohibits:

  • Drivers from driving passenger motor vehicles for hire in Toronto unless they are licensed by the City as a taxicab or limousine driver;
  • Drivers from driving passenger motor vehicles for hire in Toronto unless the owner of the vehicle is licensed by the City as a taxicab or limousine owner; and
  • Owners of vehicles from allowing people to drive their vehicles for hire in Toronto unless the driver is licensed by the City as a taxicab or limousine driver

Sutts, Strosberg LLP represents the Applicant.

“Toronto’s bylaws are very clear: only someone licensed as a taxicab driver may operate a vehicle for hire in the City,” said Jay Strosberg, co-Managing Partner, Sutts, Strosberg LLP.  “The bylaw was specifically changed to capture this conduct, yet Mayor Tory has decided to ignore Toronto’s own bylaw. Why bother changing the law unless you are going to enforce it?”

Mr. Strosberg is “baffled” by the City’s decision to permit UberX to continue to operate as a taxi service without proper licensing and oversight.

“Taxi drivers, as taxpayers, have no choice but to file this injunction because Mayor Tory will not,” said Mr. Strosberg. “The fact that this is a recent amendment makes it all the more egregious. The enforcement of law should not be a matter of politics.  Mayor Tory is sending the message that lawlessness is acceptable.”

For the purposes of consumer protection, the City’s licensing protocol contained in Municipal Code Chapter 545-1, Licensing requires that, among other things:

  • taxicab and limousine drivers complete a training course;
  • vehicles used as taxicabs or limousines pass mechanical inspection and be equipped with certain safety equipment;
  • vehicle owners have comprehensive insurance policies (with minimum coverage of $2,000,000) and have deposited a copy of their certificates of insurance with the City; and
  • the fares or rates charged for taxicab or limousine rides are in accordance with a fee schedule established by the City

The application and injunction therefore seeks an order declaring that all UberX drivers in Toronto are breaching the bylaw and also ordering that UberX drivers be prevented from continuing to operate without the required licenses.

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Media Contact for Jay Strosberg, Sutts Strosberg LLP 

Aerial Communications Group

Naomi Strasser

416.787.6577

naomi@aerialpr.com

Backgrounder: Why is a taxpayer bringing this injunction request?