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We can protect the public interest and say no to Uber Capitalism

The City of Toronto has been reviewing its taxicab regulations as a result of the service provider Uber operating in Toronto. In a report to the Licensing and Standards Committee, City staff put forward recommendations that would lessen and eliminate specific criteria and regulations for all drivers, existing taxicabs and Uber operators. The City is proposing greater flexibility to allow the market to self-regulate and ultimately determine what consumers need and want.
 
Local 79 President Tim Maguire told the Committee about the need to regulate in the public interest to ensure safety standards are met, and the need to ensure current taxicab drivers are able to continue to earn a fair living next to their less regulated counterparts. Watch or read his full deputation below.



RE: LS10.3 A New Vehicle-for-Hire Bylaw to Regulate Toronto’s Ground Transportation Industry                   
Good afternoon, my name is Tim Maguire and I am President of CUPE Local 79. I represent the approximately 20,000 inside workers at the City, delivering services to Toronto’s communities.
Before I get into the specifics of my comments on this very important issue, I want to say that this is part of an historic debate that’s happening in Cities across the world. It’s happening because of the changing economy, changing technology, new players, and new standards. What this debate ought to be about is what is in the public interest. What is the public interest in the City of Toronto as everyone is watching what we do here and in other Cities around the world. And what are the values that drive deciding what is in the public interest.
The proposed Vehicle-for-Hire Bylaw creates a two-tiered system that lowers standards across the industry rather than raising standards for unregulated participants. Yes, there are some suggestions in standards that should be applied in some particular areas. The City should regulate the industry in the public interest to meet goals of consumer protection, public safety, economic and environmental health.
The City should not move in the direction of a self-regulating and self-training industry that supports a market interest, not the public interest.
Trying to manage the sharing economy by letting the market run itself is not the answer to this very important question. Market forces alone are not in the best interest of the public, they’re in the best interest of individuals.
And I get that we are in a changing society and a changing economy. I too have children and I have these discussions about the changing world all the time. I talk to them about the values that define public interest and try and educate them as a parent.
Protecting the Public Interest
Many of the proposed changes in the new bylaw reduce public safety and consumer protection.
Lessening, or with a view of reviewing and lessening City-run vehicle inspections puts drivers, passengers and pedestrians at risk. These inspections were introduced for taxicabs in 1998 due to the poor condition of vehicles on the road. Uber vehicles are not required to have City inspections. And if there are improvements that need to be made in the area of inspections and other areas then make them, don’t make them self-regulating.
Eliminating mandatory training, including accessibility training and CPR for new licenses, significantly lowers current industry standards. Training is not only good for the public as it improves customer safety and service; it is also good for drivers. The City says it will increase responsibility but they are transferring the responsibility of Wheel Trans and other accessibility issues to the industry, to private companies, not the public oversight.
Third party criminal and driver checks for Uber Drivers rely on private companies to ensure minimum standards are being met. This should not be about minimum standards, it ought to be about highest standards. In a competitive market where Uber’s primary focus has been to continue operations at all costs and low costs, the public has no guarantee drivers have appropriate screening.
Passenger Fares and Driver Livelihood
With regard to passenger fares and driver livelihood, surge pricing allows Uber Drivers to set their own rates when demand is high and does not protect consumers and leads to price gouging. Taxi drivers cannot adjust rates. This means lower earning potential when they already pay higher licensing fees. The separate fee structure has the opposite effect of increasing competitiveness and, taxi drivers at a disadvantage to their less-regulated competitors. We ought to be pushing to maintain living standards, and wages and stable work lives, not lower them to the lowest common denominator.
It is not in the public interest to exacerbate rising income inequality by succumbing to market pressure to reduce the income of taxi drivers.
Upholding Accountability
City Staff and Council are responsible for the economic and environmental health of the City. With no restriction to the number of vehicles on the road there will be more congestion, and greater challenge for enforcement staff, as bylaw infractions and customer complaints increase. And I also represent these members.
Instead of regulating current conditions in the public interest, the City has undermined its ability to provide oversight of an industry in which unregulated participants have been allowed to erode what protections exist. With no mandatory or minimum training requirements, reduced safety standards, and de-regulated fares and licensing, the City is relying on the industry to self-regulate when it has already shown a preference to operate outside regulation – and increase its market share in doing so. What would City Councillors and the public think if the City were to allow other industries to self-inspect and put the public at risk, such as restaurants and child care centres.
If problems exist in regulation, let’s fix the problem, not move away from regulation. And in doing so, we can protect the public interest and say no to Uber Capitalism.
Thank you,
Tim Maguire
President
 
 

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