Outspoken taxi executive says the City of Toronto is 'terrorizing' cab drivers
The taxi industry in Toronto has been on the decline since the arrival of ridesharing app Uber a decade ago, but one outspoken taxi executive hasn't given up her fight against a service she claims isn't held to the same standard as licensed cabs. And that fight got especially heated this week.
Kristine Hubbard, Operations Manager at Beck Taxi Limited, has been leading a campaign against Uber and similar apps like Lyft since day one, and her latest salvo has been fired directly at the city in the form of a Twitter thread making some pretty bold accusations.
In a tweet shared on Tuesday, Hubbard started the thread with some pointed words, saying that "the City of Toronto is terrorizing taxi drivers" through a combination of what she claims is a convoluted process to renew vehicle-for-hire driver licences being applied to cab drivers, but not those operating rideshare vehicles.
MLS staff are uncooperative and still are unable to communicate appropriately with drivers and/or their family members who now have tried to step in to speak on behalf of parents. Staff don't sign their names to emails allowing them to brush people off, desperate people who have— Kristine Hubbard (@KristineHubbard) March 8, 2022
been driving throughout the pandemic, has been trained by this City to do his job. This is targeted, disgusting action clearly indicating AGAIN that our City's ability to abuse it's power has no end. I would love to share this story @CP24 @globalnewsto @CBCToronto @CityNewsTO— Kristine Hubbard (@KristineHubbard) March 8, 2022
blogTO reached out to Hubbard for a better understanding of the problem at hand. She claims that things have only grown harder for drivers since the pandemic. While the city created a digital portal to handle taxi licence renewals, Hubbard claims the process is opaque and complex for drivers to follow compared to the old paper, in-person system.
"You're going to create a digital portal, but you have no way to connect with these people electronically to provide a link or to provide instructions. So this city has never tried," says Hubbard.
In a recent instance, Hubbard claims that a retired taxicab plate owner — no longer driving — was informed by mail that they needed to update their insurance or have their licence suspended. "There's no insurance if there's no vehicle, but they still don't even understand that," says Hubbard.
Hubbard suggests that this might not be an accident on the city's part, stating, "it's almost like it's meant to confuse, it's meant to be more difficult."
Taking it a step further, she claims that taxis are being targeted by the city in reprisal for the industry's pushback against Uber and similar apps, specifically a private member motion tabled to city council in late 2021 that sought to pause new vehicle-for-hire licences until a driver training accreditation program is established.
She says that this feels like the city lashing out at the industry after being called out by taxi operators like Hubbard in the motion, for not following its own rules and creating a tilted playing field in favour of rideshare apps.
Hubbard doesn't mince words in her criticism of the politicians in charge, saying that "Mayor Tory called the taxi industry dinosaurs. The fact is the only dinosaurs in this city are located in city hall."
Underscoring that persons of colour in the taxi industry have been "disproportionately affected by this pandemic," Hubbard is asking for the licensing system to be "reformed, simplified, and communicated" to drivers.
"As I'm saying these words to you, I have to wonder who's going to read this and what are they going to do to me," said Hubbard, adding, "but I'm pretty sure they can't do anything worse than what they've already done."
A spokesperson for the city tells blogTO that Toronto "understands that it has been an incredibly challenging time for the taxi industry and for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 and we have worked hard to ensure support is available through the pandemic and beyond."
The spokesperson points out that, last year, "the City extended the licence renewal grace period from 90 days to 150 days and waived all late fees, to support businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic," adding that they’ve also extended the maximum age of vehicles for two additional years, reduced regulatory charges and licensing fees, and provided an extra year for owners to pay outstanding 2020 fees.
An online licence portal was launched during the early days of the pandemic, and the city claims to have "processed thousands of new or renewed business licences."
But there is some obvious beef from both sides in this dispute, the city statement throwing shade at the taxi industry, saying "while we are sympathetic and aware that not everybody embraces technology," there are tools in place to that "allow people to interact with the city 24/7."
Hubbard adds that people often try to claim that taxicab plate owners made a bad investment, but she stresses that "this is not in the stock market. The city said, 'we'll make sure that no one can do this job unless they follow the same rules that you're following.' And then one day decided 'actually we don't give a shit.'"
So yeah, many shots have been fired today.
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