As city hall ramps up for yet another heated debate over taxi licensing, Toronto Mayor John Tory is urging council to conduct a broader review of the entire taxi industry – including controversial ride-sharing technologies such as Uber.
In January, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice struck down a portion of the dramatic overhaul of the taxi industry passed by city council last year. And as council prepares to revisit the convoluted issue of licensing on Thursday, the mayor and several councillors want to instead take a "universal look" at the industry, which could open the door to regulating Uber.
"I think the responsible way to go about this is to take a universal look at all of this and say, 'All right, how do current developments – technology and otherwise – affect the taxi industry and the limo industry and all the other parts of the paid ground industry?'" Mr. Tory said in a news conference Wednesday.
The mayor has, in the past, voiced support for the Silicon Valley-based company – which pairs drivers with paid passengers while skirting traditional taxi-licensing rules. But his support comes amidst escalating hostilities between city authorities and Uber, including a continuing legal battle between the City of Toronto and Uber, and a police crackdown this month on UberX drivers.
Regulating the app – which faces growing criticism over its privacy and safety policies – could put an end to such clashes.
The mayor's most recent Uber comments come ahead of Thursday's taxi-licensing debate.
Early last year, Toronto's city council passed a sweeping overhaul of the taxi industry to shift away from a two-tiered licensing system, and toward a greater proportion of owner-operated cabs. But after a group of taxi owners and drivers took the city to court over the decision, a judge struck down the 2024 deadline when the city would have required drivers to switch to the new, unified licence.
Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong said Wednesday he plans on moving a motion that will "bundle everything together" in a broader review instead of dealing with the licensing issues piecemeal. The process would happen in June – after the city's scheduled court battle against Uber – so that ride-sharing could be a part of the discussion.