Toronto Mayor John Tory is warning Uber his patience is wearing thin with the service’s “one-finger salute” to the city.
Tory made the remarks Thursday, a day after he resisted pressure from the traditional taxi industry to shut out Uber entirely and instead led city council in voting to move toward regulations that could include the company.
Within minutes of that vote, Uber Canada general manager Ian Black rejected a council request that his virtual ride-hailing firm shut, for now, its UberX service connecting users to drivers without cab licences and their private vehicles.
Tory, who said UberX is operating “outside the law,” is also unhappy that California-based Uber has not disclosed full details of its insurance coverage meant to protect drivers and Torontonians who ride with them.
“The city is working to modernize our transportation networks, and Uber can and must now, in particular, demonstrate that it can earn Toronto’s trust,” the mayor said during a break in city council.
If they “turn around after being part of that (regulation consultation) process and say, ‘No, we’re not going to comply with any of these regulations,’ we are then dealing with people who are dealing in absolute bad faith.”
Toronto is among global cities where app-based companies, popular with the public, are wreaking havoc on a traditional taxi industry heavily regulated in terms of insurance, fares and city fees.
Council voted 32-12 to ensure that services like Uber will be covered by city bylaws, so they must apply to be a taxi and limousine brokerage and pay an annual fee. Those definitions dictate that Uber is now only permitted to connect users with municipally licensed cabs, cutting out the reported local 400,000 UberX users and 16,000 private drivers.
The city has charged more than 100 UberX drivers with breaching a bylaw requiring drivers to get a city licence and submit their vehicles for inspection.
Tory acknowledged the city does not have the resources to shut UberX down, but warned that his support for opening the door to ride-sharing services will not survive further refusals to co-operate.
“While it still won’t be easy to close them down, I can tell right now they will have lost me as a supporter at that time,” Tory said. “I don’t believe it is then an act of good corporate citizenship; in fact I think it’s exactly the opposite, for them to turn around and… give us the one-finger salute again.”
City staff are to report back to city council by next spring with a recommended framework for new taxi rules.
At Queen’s Park, Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government will work with any municipalities who ask for help coping with the Uber issue, but warned that technology is not going away.
“We are standing in front of a building that is fully digital, that has technology we couldn’t have imagined even five or 10 years ago,” Wynne told reporters following the opening of the new Humber River Hospital.
“There is new technology being developed all the time, and we are going to, as a society, have to deal with the disruption that that is going to create.”