Taxi widows win injunction against City Hall

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

TORONTO TAXI WIDOWS WIN INJUNCTION AGAINST CITY HALL:
TORONTO MUST DELAY CHANGES UNTIL FALL COURT HEARING

(TORONTO, Ontario – June 26, 2014) – A group of taxi widows were successful in convincing a judge to grant an injunction to stop the City of Toronto from imposing sections of a new taxi licensing regime scheduled to become effective July 1, 2014.

The Honourable Justice D.G. Stinson of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued an injunction against the City from acting upon or implementing those sections of the new by-law that prevented a purchaser of a Standard Taxicab or the estate of a deceased Standard Taxicab owner from being issued a Standard Taxi License (STL) after June 30, 2014.

The Toronto Taxi Alliance filed the motion for the injunction on behalf of the taxi widows and all standard plate owners. The Toronto Taxi Alliance has applied to Ontario Superior Court to have the motions passed by Council on February 19th quashed. The hearing date is set for fall, 2014.

Arguments on the injunction were heard in Ontario Superior Court at 361 University Avenue on June 25. The decision was released at about 6pm.

When told of the news the taxi widows and other standard plate owners were elated.

“We are very pleased with this decision. We feel our concerns have been validated by Ontario Superior Court, and we look forward to having the opportunity to present our full argument in the Application to Quash,” said Joel Barr, a Standard Taxicab owner and member of the Toronto Taxi Alliance.

“The Court has recognized that there will be irreparable harm to standard plate owners if the operation of the by-law was not suspended until the court determined the validity of the by-law on the Application to Quash.”

The court also ordered that if the by-law is upheld on the hearing of the Application to Quash, then those persons who acquired an STL after June 30, 2014, would not have any right to claim that they should be treated as if they had been an STL holder on or before July 1, 2014.

“The City’s proposed changes would destroy the lifetime investment of hundreds of cab drivers and their families and will hurt vulnerable people,” Barr said.

“For almost 50 years, Toronto has assured the taxi industry that investing in a Standard Plate was an investment in a business which would help provide income and a retirement nest egg. The taxi industry has held up its part of the bargain, and helped Toronto build one of the best taxicab services in the world. Now, Toronto wants to renege on the deal to the severe detriment of elderly drivers, their widows and their families,” Barr said.

After three years of negotiations with the taxi industry, Toronto City Council ignored the recommendations of its own Licensing and Standards Committee and passed motions on February 19th to overhaul the taxi licensing regime. The changes to the Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 545 were approved by Council on June 13 and were scheduled to come into effect on July 1.

Among other changes, the new regime would replace the Standard taxi plate with a Toronto Taxicab License (TTL). TTL owners must operate the cab themselves and cannot lease them out and generate income the way Standard plate owners can under the current rules.  All TTL license will require the owner to purchase and operate a wheel-chair accessible vehicle. Further, the restrictions and conditions associated with the TTL would severely dilute the value of the Standard taxi plate.
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Here is a DRAFT document resulting from the injunction hearing today. Final version to follow; the gist of the decision is here but the language may change slightly.

Media contact:
Rita Smith
Toronto Taxi Alliance
ritasmith@rogers.com

About the Toronto Taxi Alliance
The Toronto Taxi Alliance represents the vast majority of Standard Taxicab owners, brokerages, fleets, agents, and many Ambassador permit holders. The member brokerages of the TTA represent more than 4,000 of the 4,800 taxis on the road.

Widow of murdered taxi driver speaks on losing the Standard Plate

BY ,TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: 
UPDATED: 

Taxi rule change hurts small plate owners

TORONTO - Nusrat Raana’s husband was murdered in a vicious knife attack while he was eking out a living for his young family driving his cab overnight.

The youngest of their four children was just seven-months-old when he didn’t come home that next morning.

There was no life insurance, no savings. All Mahmood Ahmad Bhatti left his widow was his standard taxicab owner plate, the valuable commodity that she could use to lease out his cab for a monthly fee and one day sell for as much as $350,000.

But thanks to controversial city bylaw changes that come into force July 1, Raana is terrified her only source of income is about to disappear.

She’s one of several widows hoping the Toronto Taxi Alliance will be successful Wednesday in getting an interim injunction to halt next week’s sweeping reforms of Toronto’s cab licensing framework until they can apply to quash the new regime at a court hearing scheduled for this fall.

Under the current convoluted two-tiered system, owners who hold the valuable standard plates could rent out their taxis and not have to get behind the wheel. On the open market, the plates could be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those with ambassador licences were not allowed to sell them and they couldn’t lease out their vehicle to anyone else.

The city complained that most of those who had bought up the standard plates — some owned hundreds of them — were rich, absentee owners who didn’t care if their cabs were unclean or falling apart. Those renting them complained they were “slaves” doing all the work for very little return.

In February, city council decided to scrap the two different streams and convert everyone to a new Toronto Taxicab Licence. Owners must now drive the cab themselves for 38.5 hours a week and must have a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

It was good news for Toronto’s 1,313 ambassador licence-holders, who will be allowed to hire three additional drivers to operate their cab when they’re not working. But it’s a disaster for the small plate owner.

They hoped they’d be grandfathered and exempt from the changes. But in February, city council caught them off guard when they passed a motion requiring everyone to convert to the new system by 2024.

The new restrictions and conditions on this new kind of licence has meant that those hoping to sell their standard plate has seen its value plummet. A standard licence that would have fetched $350,000 last year went for $190,000 last month — and it will only fall further.

The Toronto Taxi Alliance knows it won’t get much sympathy for their members who are owners with a fleet of these cabs. But for the little guy, like 83-year-old Doris Kostyck, her late husband’s two plates was supposed to be her nest egg.

“This is the most embarrassing, humiliating thing to have to go through, to put your problems out in public,” the distraught widow told a press conference Tuesday organized by the alliance. “I’m begging them not to go ahead with this because it’s going to hurt too many people.”

It was a plea echoed by Raana.

Her family currently lives in subsidized housing and depends on the $1,300 a month she earns by renting out her taxi to two shift drivers. Under the new system, she will have to drive it herself within 10 years or sell her plate at a fire sale price.

It seems awfully unfair to a widow whose husband was stabbed six times in the back of the neck at 3 a.m. and left to bleed to death behind the wheel of his cab in 2006. “My youngest son doesn’t remember his father. He’s always asking, ‘Did he hug me, mom? Did he take me to the park?’”

Bhatti’s killer, Johnathan Forder, has served his time and is already out of prison — his future ahead of him.

While Raana is now terrified about their own.

“The city won’t help me in any way — this is my only income,” she said. “With the new law that just passed, it has made it exceptionally difficult for me and my four young children.”

With a city council vote, the only thing her murdered husband had left her has been virtually wiped away.

Toronto Council actions embarrass & humiliate widow of taxi driver

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By Jessica Smith Cross
June 24, 2014
Updated: June 24, 2014 | 5:49 pm

Toronto ‘taxi widows’ denounce city’s overhaul of taxi industry

A group of women known as “taxi widows” spoke at a press conference Tuesday denouncing city council’s overhaul of the taxi industry.

“The first thing I have to say is this is the most embarrassing, humiliating thing to have to go through, to put your problems out in public,” said Doris Kostyck.

Kostyck, 83, was among a small group of women assembled by the taxi industry group called the Toronto Taxicab Alliance to tell their own stories about how the changes will affect them.

Kostyck’s story was typical of the taxi widows. Her husband Leo was a driver for 40 years.

“He got knifed, he got robbed, all the things that cab drivers do,” she said.

He passed away 23 years ago and she has been living off the leasing income from the two plates.

Under the rules approved by city council that take effect in July, she will be able to continue to lease the plates for the next 10 years but then must sell to someone who will drive the taxis — not lease them as she does now.

“I’m in a dire straight and don’t know which way to turn,” she said. “And I have Parkinson’s disease to look forward to.”

Leasing plates is typically more lucrative than selling them outright and, according to the industry group, the uncertainty surrounding the changes to the system have made the value of the plates — often sold for more than $300,000 before the changes — fall significantly.

The highest sale price since the reforms were passed in February was $232,000. Most of the 60 sales since then have been for less than $200,000. The average of plates sold (for more than a nominal amount, which indicates a transfer between family members), fell from about $250,000 in 2012 to $134,000 since the council decision.

The group has filed a lawsuit that seeks to stop the changes, arguing that council’s decision violated procedure, and will be in court Wednesday arguing for an injunction to stop the city from proceeding while the suit moves through the courts.

Kostyck disputed the stereotype, talked of by city councillors and staff at the meeting when the decision was made, of the absentee plate owner as owning many plates and living off the leasing income while sipping drinks in Florida.

“I have a son living down there,” she said. “They all threw in for my flight and health insurance and I went down to visit at Christmas.”

Just how representative the widows are of plate owners, and exactly who owns multiple plates, is unclear. City records show that 56 companies have five or more licences, 14 have 10 or more. The top two companies have 18 plates each.

However, dozens of numbered companies own plates, so who controls the companies — and the true concentration of plates — is not publicly known.

The councillors who voted for the industry reforms did so mainly to improve the lives of shift drivers, who rent time in taxis and have long complained about working long hours that often leave them coming home with less than the equivalent of minimum wage.

By transitioning to a system where the owner of the taxi plate must drive the taxi, the reforms are intended to cut out the middlemen and leave more money for drivers.

Plates cannot be willed

One woman was in a different situation than the others. Gail Bouchard’s sister, Beverly Chilton, was a taxi widow and passed away recently. Bouchard is the executive of her sister’s will and responsible for the financial well being of her sister’s intellectually disabled adult son.

Under the city’s rules, plates can’t be willed, so she has one year to sell her sister’s two plates to provide for her nephew. Where she may have gotten a total of $600-700,000 for the pair plates if she’d sold them a year ago, she believes she’ll get significantly less if she tries today.

Bouchard said the uncertainty about the changes has made the plates hard to sell and the lawsuit has made that worse.

“The price of the cabs has dropped dramatically,” she said. “… no one who wants to buy them because of the bylaws changing.”

TAXI WIDOWS URGE COURT TO HALT LICENSING CHANGES

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

judiwidows

 NEW LAWS THREATEN WIDOWS’ FINANCIAL SECURITY

(TORONTO, Ontario – June 24, 2014) – Owners of Standard taxi plates today announced that they are seeking an injunction to stop the City of Toronto from imposing a new taxi licensing regime, which will come into effect on July 1.

Arguments on the injunction are scheduled to be heard in Ontario Superior Court at 361 University Avenue on June 25.

“These changes will destroy the lifetime investment of hundreds of cab drivers and their families and will hurt vulnerable people,” said Judi Barr, the wife of a Standard taxi plate owner/driver for 35 years.

“For so many of us, the Standard taxi plate is our pension plan. For others, it’s how they support themselves and their loved ones.”

On hand to announce the legal action were a number of widows and dependents of lifelong cab drivers who rely on the income from the Standard taxi plates to survive.  

 “My late husband Leo drove a cab for 40 years. He saved up so he could buy his two Standard taxi plates and he always said the plates would look after us in our old age. Leo’s been gone for 23 years and I count on those plates to keep me in my home. I don’t know what I’ll do if these new rules take effect,” said 83-year-old Doris Kostyk.

View video here.

“The Standard taxi plate is how I support my four children. We are still struggling after my husband’s death and to have this taken away from us would be devastating. I don’t know how we will survive,” said Nusrat Raana, whose husband Mahmood Bhatti was murdered behind the wheel of his cab in 2006.

View video here.

After three years of negotiations with the taxi industry, Toronto City Council ignored the recommendations of its own Licensing and Standards Committee and passed motions in February to overhaul the taxi licensing regime. The changes to the Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 545 were approved by Council on June 13 and are scheduled to come into effect on July 1.

Among other changes, the new regime would replace the Standard taxi plate with a Toronto Taxicab License (TTL). TTL owners must operate the cab themselves and cannot lease them out and generate income the way Standard plate owners can under the current rules.  Further, the restrictions and conditions associated with the TTL will severely dilute the value of the Standard taxi plate.

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Media contact:

Rita Smith
Toronto Taxi Alliance
ritasmith@rogers.com

 

About the Toronto Taxi Alliance

The Toronto Taxi Alliance represents the vast majority of owners, drivers, brokerages, fleets, agents, and Ambassador permit holders. The member brokerages of the TTA represent more than 4,000 of the 4,800 taxis on the road.

TTA acts quickly in response to City’s action – injunction hearing June 25

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On Friday, June 13th, Toronto Council voted to pass the Bills implementing the motions to radically amend the Taxi Bylaw moved on February 19th, 2014, in flagrant disregard of Council’s own procedural rules. The Bills provide for the amendments to come into effect on July 1, 2014.

The Toronto Taxi Alliance (TTA) has acted quickly in response to City Council’s actions.

On Monday, June 16th, the TTA filed a motion for an injunction to prevent the City from implementing the amendments until the TTA’s pending application to quash the new by-laws is decide by the court. The application is scheduled to be heard on November 17, 18 or 19th. The Injunction motion is scheduled for hearing on June 25, 2014.

The material filed by the TTA in support of the injunction can be found here

The City of Toronto has until June 21 to file its materials.

The court’s decision on the injunction will be reported here as soon as it becomes available.

The text of e new by-laws is available here:

 

TTA June Update

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Toronto Taxi Alliance

Executive members of the Toronto Taxi Alliance have been very active since the April 23rd public meeting at the Montecassino Banquet Hall.

Subcommittees have been struck covering the following work areas:

  • Legal
  • Government Relations
  • Internal Communications and Contributions
  • External Communications/Public Relations
  • Finance
  • Governance

All of the subcommittees have met and are at work on specific projects in order to advance the TTA’s main objective, which is to protect the rights of the Standard Taxicab Licence holders in Toronto. All subcommittees report at the bi-weekly Executive meeting of the TTA.

Legal

The Legal subcommittee has been very active. On April 22, 2014 we filed an Application  in  the Ontario Superior Court to Quash that the resolutions passed by  Toronto City Council on February 19th 2014 dealing with the creation an implementation of the   Toronto Taxi Licence (TTL).

The text of the bylaw amendments have not yet come before Council for adoption. The City has stated that this will take place at the Council meeting on June 10-11. Our Legal team is now at work on actions to be taken in the event that the by-law is adopted by Council before the Application to Quash can be heard.

Government Relations

In April, the TTA issued a request for proposals (RFP) to government relations firms interested in providing advice and services to the Toronto Taxi Alliance. Four firms submitted proposals.

After evaluation and discussion, the TTA voted to hire the Sussex Strategy Group and Rob Davis and Associates to provide advice and guidance to the TTA in the area of government relations in  this important election year.

Internal Communications and Contributions

The Toronto Taxi Alliance website is being updated regularly and will soon offer instant online payment through PayPal.

The TTA has requested that every Plate owner contribute $1000 per plate to fund our legal and communications campaign.

External Communications/Public Relations

During spring of 2014, public relations and media activities were minimized as the TTA did not wish to jeopardize legal and government relations activities. This is expected to change in the weeks ahead.

Finance

An audited Financial Statement is being prepared for presentation at the next Annual General Meeting of the Toronto Taxi Alliance, which is being planned for summer 2014.

Governance

The Toronto Taxi Alliance Inc. is a corporation without share capital pursuant to the laws of the Province of Ontario. The Governance committee is reviewing its  legal and corporate structure and will be making recommendations to the Board respecting the adoption of an updated governance model.

The updated governance model as  adopted  by the Board  will be placed before the membership for confirmation at the Annual General Meeting, which will include elections of Board members.

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The Fight Is On

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This editorial appeared in the May edition of the TaxiNews and is worth sharing.

We at Taxi News completely support the position taken by the Toronto Taxi Alliance in its now open legal fight with the City of Toronto.

Our reading  and no one has said this outright to our knowledge of the ultimate goal of the TTA in this action against the City is to try to establish once and for all a secure financial foundation for the industry and ALL of its participants, from the biggest plate owners (and there aren’t that many any more) to the thousands of shift drivers struggling to make some semblance of a living for themselves and their families.

The TTA represents owners, fleet operators and brokerages. But make no mistake, if it wins in court, simple cab drivers are going to be hugely better off as well. If this by-law stands, everyday cab drivers are going to make even less than the pittance they take home now. That is because the costs to operate a taxi are going to skyrocket while street competition is going to balloon. Drivers: if you think you’ve got it bad now, just wait until these “reforms” kick in. You’re screwed. Your licensing fees next year are already going through the roof, again.

What happened on February 19th at the City Council meeting was unconscionable. Motions were flying fast and furious, reflecting the utterly ill-considered random thoughts of councillors who had not done one iota of homework or research into the deep, Council-created problems of an entire billion-dollar industry employing, conservatively, directly and indirectly, some 25,000 people in this city.

An entire industry has been thrown into chaos by our utterly thoughtless City Council passing brutally unfair and destructive laws that effectively wipe out lifetimes of work and struggle and sacrifice by people who have served this city too long and too well to be treated like dirt.

While all agree the disabled need better taxi service, for the fleet to be 100 percent wheelchair accessible, replacing fuel efficient gasoline-powered Camry’s and the like with huge, gas guzzling, expensive, high-maintenance, high insurance-cost vans is purely and simply brain-dead.

The TTA wants the courts to quash the odious taxi reform by-law on procedural grounds, alleging that Council did not follow its own rules in proposing and enacting various amendments.

The hardships Council’s actions have directly caused are starting already. In recent Toronto Licensing Tribunal cases, some of those hardships have already been aired. We hope councillors are ever so proud to be forcing a 90-year old widow, now in hospital, to sell at a huge loss the two plates she and her husband worked 50-plus years in the business to get, and lose the $2,500 a month pension from leasing them out. (Do you think she drinks champagne and slurps oysters in Florida on that income, as some on Council would have you believe?)

Thankfully in this particular case a sympathetic TLT gave her a little more breathing space, but her new deadline to sell is the end of August and then, what? Welfare?

There are far more than this one victim out there watching a lifetime of work and their financial security go up in smoke because a bunch of know-nothing and could care less City councillors decided they and their loved ones are utterly disposable.

To quote Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong in another context: “One is too many.”

The TTA is right to say the real battle is not in a courtroom. It is political. It is up to individual members of the industry to talk to their own councillors and as many as they can in other wards to get their message across. Numbers count.

Time is short and it is your financial future at stake. We can only urge you to get seriously involved politically. It is not going to be easy. It might be expensive in time and effort. But the cost of doing nothing is far, far worse.