Toronto taxis rally outside city hall for industry reform

Association says city needs to scrap its current ‘two-tier system’
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 02/28/2012

Toronto taxi drivers rallied at city hall on Feb. 27 to protest what they call a two-tier system.

Organizers of the “Day of Action for Taxi Drivers” say they’re frustrated with the lack of progress of taxi industry reform first announced by the City over 10 months ago.

"As key stakeholders in the taxi industry, drivers have three primary concerns: health and safety, the end of discriminatory two-tier licensing and the treatment of taxis as public transit," said iTaxiworkers Association president Sajid Mughal.

The iTaxiworkers Association is a non-profit organization aiming to reform the taxi industry at the municipal and provincial levels, according to the association’s website. The group says Toronto’s current licensing system needs to be neutralized so all drivers are held to the same standards.

Currently, Toronto has three types of taxi licenses: "Ambassador," "W" and "Standard". Toronto introduced the “Ambassador” license in 1998 to regulate the number of cabs on city streets. At the time, drivers with “Standard” licenses were permitted to keep the designation. “Standard” licenses can be sold or transferred to other drivers. The “Ambassador” license, however, restricts drivers from hiring replacement drivers for their cabs. A “W” license means the driver can accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.

The “Ambassador” license puts drivers in an unfair economic position as it limits a driver’s options should he or she be unable to drive his or her cab, according to iTaxiworkers.

The current bylaw "victimized" Khalil Talke, a taxi driver stabbed by a passenger in February 2011, the group says. Talke is an “Ambassador” plate owner and was prevented from hiring a replacement driver for his cab while he was recovering in hospital, "depriving his family of their only income while he was injured," the group said in a press release.

Toronto has plans to hold public consultations in March, April and May on reforming its current taxi bylaws. The city estimates the consultation process to be completed by mid-2012.

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