The mother of a man killed in an Uber accident in March appeared before the city’s Licensing and Standards Committee on Thursday to plead for stricter safety regulations for the ride-hailing company.
Cheryl Hawkes described for the committee the accident in which her son, Nicholas Cameron, was killed while taking an Uber to Pearson airport. The driver collided with another vehicle as he was trying to merge onto the Gardiner Expressway. He now faces four charges, including dangerous driving and criminal negligence causing death.
“I’m here also to plead with you for immediate action, or at least priority, as you begin this consultation on measures governing the safety of ride-hailing services,” Ms. Hawkes said. “Uber abides by the laws of the land once the laws are made. But those laws are set by politicians like you, and that is where the true power lies. I’m begging you to use it.”
Councillor Janet Davis said Uber needs more public scrutiny when one of their drivers commits an infraction. Currently, taxi drivers are brought before the licensing tribunal, which is a public process, but Uber infractions are reported to the company.
“I think there has to be some way that the statistics that relate to Uber drivers and their performance of their jobs ... [should be made available] ... so that the public can understand how Uber and Lyft are performing in the city of Toronto,” Ms. Davis said.
Councillor Jim Karygiannis, who has long been opposed to Uber operating in Toronto, asked Ms. Hawkes why she didn’t warn her son about the dangers of ride-hailing services.
“I shouldn’t say this,” Mr. Karygiannis said, “but having had a bad experience yourself, why didn’t you tell your son not to take an Uber?” (Ms. Hawkes said her first time in an Uber was “harrowing”).
Ms. Hawkes said she married into a family of “stubborn men,” but that her son was an adult. “You know, you can’t forbid a 28-year-old man with his own apartment and his own life, two jobs and a career.”
“My condolences. My heart goes out to you,” Mr. Karygiannis said.
Mr. Karygiannis defended his question in an interview after the meeting.
“If she feels slighted out of it, or if people might think why did I say it, I apologize. However, it was a valid question,” he said. “You had a bad experience and you don’t share that with your family?”
Mr. Karygiannis later tried to submit a motion outlawing Uber in Toronto until the council report on ride-hailing services is completed, but it was ruled out of order. He said he’ll try again.
“I don’t think Uber has any business in Canada,” he said. “Uber has been nothing but a destructive force in our city.”
Ride-hailing is under the city’s microscope again as part of a review of regulations implemented in May, 2016, for taxis, limousines and ride-hailing services, which included mandatory background checks and driver insurance for Uber. The rules also got rid of mandatory training for taxi companies in an attempt to level the playing field.
Along with these rules came a promise to report on their implementation in one year. Now, a year after that due date, council is preparing for public consultation later in 2018, with the report coming midway through 2019.