Torontonians should brace for a difficult commute on Wednesday morning as cabbies angry about Uber plan a mass protest that will wind through the city.
The exact route of the protest, which will involve taxis congregating in four outlying spots and then converging on Queen's Park and City Hall, is being kept quiet for now. But the effect could be felt widely.
"I'm sure there'll be a cab shortage tomorrow, because there will be a lot of people that are going to be joining this demonstration," said Sam Moini, president of the Fleet Operators Association and one spokesman of what he characterized as a pan-industry protest.
"I hope it doesn't disrupt the public to the extent of, you know, where people can't move around. But I'm sure it will," he added. "We're hoping that … the public is affected as little as possible. But we have to do something. Something has to be done to show this city that, you know, the industry is suffering. We are suffering."
Kristine Hubbard, Beck Taxi's operations manager, urged their drivers not to participate in the demonstration. She said in a statement that they had "deep concerns" and didn't think "a protest that inconveniences Torontonians is the appropriate course of action."
The city has said it is drafting new rules that will regulate both taxis and Uber, but in the meantime the popular ride-hailing service is continuing to operate. Mayor John Tory has said Uber is operating "outside the law" but also that it would be impractical to crack down on the widely used service.
A spokesperson for Uber Canada, meanwhile, said they were more interested in working towards new regulations, "rather than disrupting traffic during the busy holiday season."
The taxi industry is furious with what it sees as a lenient approach to Uber. Three cabbies started a hunger strike last week, a protest that ended three days later after one was taken to hospital. And Mr. Moini said the demonstration planned for Wednesday comes from "built-up frustration" with the city.
"They have a strong bylaw right now, they have a bylaw that they can enforce very vigorously," he said. "We've been polite with the city for a year and a half … and it got us nowhere. It got us absolutely nowhere."