All three political parties at the Ontario Legislature are looking for ways to remove unsafe, unlicensed taxi outfits from Ontario roads.
Unifor Ontario Regional Director Katha Fortier led a delegation to Queen's Park on December 8 that met with all three parties on the issue, including Government and Consumer Services Minister David Orazietti.
Unifor, which represents thousands of taxi and limo drivers in Ontario, has for years urged the provincial and municipal governments to stamp out unlicensed taxis by strengthening laws and beefing up enforcement. Unlicensed cab drivers have no legal authorization to pick up passengers, pay no tax and are not bound by standard industry safety and insurance measures, among other concerns.
Orazietti said the liberal government will examine ways that it might address companies including Uber, an app-based taxi firm that is intentionally skirting regulations and encouraging individuals to act as cab drivers, illegally.
Currently, there are two private members bills before the Legislature that would strengthen the laws against bandit cabs.
Fortier emphasized the union’s long-standing opposition to bandit cabs, saying companies like Uber amounted to "electronic hitchhiking, that's putting people at risk.”
"They call themselves a technology company, but they are a taxi company," Unifor Local 1688 President Amrik Singh said in a meeting with NDP MPPs. "They are unsafe, they are uninsured."
Calling bandit taxis a safety issue, NDP MPP Wayne Gates told the Unifor delegation that his party will push the government on this matter.
Unifor representatives also met with Liberal MPP John Fraser and Conservative MPP Lisa McLeod, the authors of the two bandit cab bills before the Legislature.
Singh said John Fraser’s Bill 53 (Protecting Passenger Safety Act) is preferred because it contains stiffer penalties, including impounding the cars of bandit drivers and suspending their licenses.