The day after a Toronto City Council vote made Uber's services illegal – at least, for the time being – Mayor John Tory said he is not happy with the company operating against the law, but he is willing to accept it in the interim.
Earlier this week, council voted to update the city's existing taxi and limosine rules to apply to Uber – meaning that the company needs a brokerage licence, which it does not have. At the same time, while the city appears to be moving in the direction of creating new regulations for Uber, that decision was put off until next year.
On Thursday, Mr. Tory – who has been vocally supportive of regulating Uber – was careful to avoid saying the company operates "illegally," and instead chose to say it "operates outside the law."
He said he hopes that the company will comply with the updated law – and that the province will speed up its process of potentially approving a new type of insurance specifically for Uber-like services. But at the same time, Mr. Tory noted that it would be difficult and impractical to enforce the law against the company.
"I'm not okay with it, but I guess you have to sort of accept in this job, there's a lot of things that go on in the city every day where people are not in compliance, and we don't have the necessary resources to have every single one of those people overseen and charged " he said.
"The practicality of having a huge portion of the police service devoted to cracking down on UberX drivers, the practicality of having a huge additional number or even existing bylaw officers cracking down to a point where we could stop the behaviour, I'm not sure is realistic."
According to Uber, the company's UberX service – which enables ordinary drivers to pick up fare-paying passengers as freely licensed taxicabs – currently has 400,000 riders and 16,000 drivers in Toronto, resulting in more than one million rides each month in the province.
Before council's vote on Wednesday, the company's general manager, Ian Black, said it would seek a brokerage licence for its Uber Taxi service – which operates with licensed taxis – but he did not directly answer when asked whether it would do the same with UberX.
A statement from Uber spokeswoman Susie Heath Thursday did not provide additional details on the company's plans for UberX. "We are eager to find ways to comply with regards to licensing requirement as it relates to our Uber Taxi product, and work on updated limo and ride-sharing regulations."
Meanwhile, Councillor Gord Perks disagreed with the mayor. "Uber X is illegal," he said. "We can catch them. The mayor's correct – it will be an expensive, slow and painful undertaking. That doesn't mean you don't try."