Follow along as we fact-check and analyze the ongoing council debate.
If the City Clerk’s office charged surge pricing for sitting in council chambers, they would make so much money this meeting.
On this meeting’s Council agenda: a debate to settle Uber and taxis once and for all, a motion which could see a pilot project for Bloor bike lanes after 40 years of study and debate, and choosing how to fill the late Rob Ford’s Council seat.
Stay tuned and we’ll keep you informed and walk you through everything you need to know.
Follow the Agenda
City Hall Council Chambers (100 Queen Street West)
May 31, 9:30 a.m.
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The motion to introduce the bill PASSES unanimously.
The motion to adopt the item CARRIES 38-3.
Grimes’ motion to include a definition of “not-for-profit” in the City Manager’s report CARRIES 30-11.
Ainslie’s motion to strike not-for-profit organizations from the second recommendation of the item CARRIES 37-4.
Layton’s motion FAILS 16-25.
The motions are finally going to vote. Currently voting on Layton’s motion to strike recommendation #2 of the item.
Council members are still asking questions. Nunziata wants to hold this item until tomorrow. “Noooooo”‘s from the council.
Holyday seems to agree: “I don’t know why we’re afraid to ask the question; I don’t know why we’re afraid of what the answer could be.” Someone makes a groaning noise.
Robinson is chiming in to tell us she’s “shocked” about this debate: all council is voting on is a report, not definitive changes to bylaws. “I hope people in this room will not support Mike Layton’s motion,” she says. Layton, in case anyone missed it, moved to strike the motion to review lobbyist bylaws regarding not-for-profit organizations.
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The example of a not-for-profit that should register as a lobbyist being tossed around is NoJetsTO, an organization dedicated to preventing the island airport expansion. Hence the slippery slope arguments.
“If the head of a Toronto housing corporation comes to meet with you — this is a public official paid by all of us — what is the risk that there are nefarious [activities] going on?” Perruzza asks Tory. “Is this really a concern?” John Tory basically replies, but in different words.
In arguing that City staff should study whether labour unions should have to register as lobbyists when communication with councillors, John Tory thinks the answer is obvious. He uses as an example Mark Saunders visiting councillors to lobby them for a budget increase, and that the move drew outrage. “He could have peppersprayed people and they would have had less reaction to that.”
There is Usenet-level trolling going on between councillors right now.
While Mammoliti grandstands, you can read the Bellamy Inquiry, which led to the creation of the lobbyist registry.
Mammoliti is subbing-in for Karygiannis now: “Unions have become the most powerful organizations in our country.” Gord Perks scream-laughs.
“If anyone can tell me who funds NoJetsTO, I’ll give you a free lunch.” –Giorgio Mammoliti
Many lol’s. Perks’ motion to withdraw his fake-out motion CARRIES 24-15. What if.
Karygiannis might actually be considering supporting this motion. “This is a joke, just so you understand,” says Perks. “It’s still a motion!” yells Karygiannis. This is comedy gold.
Perks says we shouldn’t make it harder for people in the city to communicate with us. Karygiannis has something to say about this.
Now he’s yelling. “It’s just scandalous, frankly, how members of this council stir the pot.” Nunziata shh’s him. He’s getting pretty loud.
Perks, for the sake of hammering his point home, motions to have the Conservative Party of Ontario register as lobbyists. “You see how easy it is?” he asks, noting how simple it would be to register virtually everybody as lobbyists if the lobbyist bylaw is changed.
Jon Burnside (Ward 26, Don Valley West) notes that council agreed to the Bloor bike lane pilot project so that council could collect data from the pilot rather than make decisions based on preconceived notions; asks Layton if he’s being a little hypocritical by motioning to strike the executive committee’s recommendations.
Here’s a look at how Council has filled its vacancies since amalgamation.
Layton: “This [motion] has come up a couple times, and each time it’s been shut down.” This is true.
Questioning is now closed. Layton is motioning to strike and delete the executive committee’s recommendation to review lobbyist bylaws for labour unions and not-for-profits.
Oop. There’s another one. Ainslie’s laughing as hard as he was the first time the joke was made, roughly six hours ago.
Council members have been making “we should take a poll” jokes relentlessly ever since Holyday moved to take a poll for Bloor bike lanes. Literally non-stop.
This issue has been brought up before. In the David Miller years, @norm moved that not-for-profits and union organizations be registered as lobbyists. After the motion was referred to staff for consideration, staff dismissed the motion in a single sentence: “Any communication by any person can constitute lobbying, but it is inappropriate to require every person to register.”
Interesting angle: Fletcher asking if Cycle Toronto would have to register as a lobbyist. We’ve come full circle.
Gehrke isn’t entirely sure how to answer this.
Holyday is now questioning lobbyist registrar Linda Gehrke: “Would a not-for-profit that was also a large dollar value carry the same types of risks, despite the fact that their not-for-profit?”
God knows there’s better ways to spend your time, but these are the current city bylaws regarding lobbying.
Currently, representatives of labour unions and not-for-profit organizations do not have to register as lobbyists. This changes if the motion, held by Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches East-York) is approved.
If the second motion — to review the requirements for not-for-profit organizations — is approved, the bylaw would change the current lobbying system to one that places controls on a wider range of political advocacy.
The next item regards a follow up report on amendments to the Toronto Municipal Code surrounding lobbying bylaws. The Executive Committee has recommended that council amend the bylaws so that consultant lobbyists are required to disclose their ultimate client and review the requirements for not-for-profit organizations and labour unions. Peep the agenda here.
“Following that exchange,” David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale) puts forth a motion.
“I’ll soon be asking Mammoliti questions in the forms of questions,” says Carroll rather cryptically. Mammoliti is still pissed about the bike lanes. “You got me!” he replies.
Tory sets forward a motion regarding the hosting of the 2017 World Police and Fire Games. BLM protestor’s figuratively swivel their heads.
The motion to approve the Social Procurement Program carries unanimously.
The withdrawal of Pasternak’s motion CARRIES unanimously.
Tory “regrets” that Pasternak has brought up the Israeli apartheid motion in light of the Social Procurement Program. Pasternak withdraws the motion; Tory thanks him.
This is not a particularly contentious matter, but there’s no doubt Pasternak’s Israel Apartheid motion will be.
Tory is now speaking in support of the recommendation for the Social Procurement Program. “It will help find a way to give people a chance,” he says.
On that note, Matlow leaves the chamber.
Pasternak’s motion requests the Exec Director of Social Development, Finance and Administration to consider the issue of precluding certain firms as part of the boycott against the state of Israel.
Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale): “[The Social Procurement Program] is an opportunity to give people the opportunity, training, and networks so we can give them lifetime jobs and opportunities to businesses once they get their foot in the door.”
Marking the beginning of Mike Layton’s career in the film industry, here’s the Star Wars spoof he presented at council: A Bloor Hope.
Tory and Mammoliti are talking off-mic as council members question city staffers. Neither look happy. Neither are making eye contact.
Michael Thomspon (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre) is now questioning a city staffer regarding the social procurement program.
Tory’s motion to hold a by-election to fill the vacancy in Ward 2 CARRIES unanimously. And Carmichael Breg’s humidifier has shut off entirely.
Tory, a poster-boy for democracy, recommends we hold a by-election. Not much more to report, really.
In recap: the approval for a bike lane pilot project on Bloor street has succeeded.
Council now deciding on how to fill Rob Ford’s council seat. Options include: by-election or appointment.
Cressy’s motion that city council request metrics on various impacts — such as traffic flow along Bloor street and impacts on both on-street and off-street parking — CARRIES 40-1. Guess who’s the dissenting opinion? (hint)
Minnan-Wong’s motion FAILS 16-25
“We don’t want to know about air quality or unions,” says Mammoliti off-mic. Nunziata tells him to simmer.
Holyday’s motion that an economic impact study be conducted CARRIES 36-5. Perks is one of the dissenting votes: “I also want all the receipts from all the bike shops.”
Results! Robinson’s motion to adopt the recommendations contained in the report CARRIES 38-3. The dissenters are Holyday, Karygiannis, and Mammoliti.
The motion to received the item FAILS, 3 to 38
Mammoliti’s vote to have the project “received for information” (AKA to kill it) is underway.
Cressy: “Polls are costly, sets a bad precedent, and may not get us the information we need.”
Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina): “[The bike lanes] will reduce congestion in the city by removing people from cars and putting them into new forms of transportation.” Cressy’s ward falls within the area where the bike lane would run.
“I will be insistent on robust and objective consultation” says Tory in response to Holyday’s questioning on determining the bike lane’s impacts.
Carmichael Greb’s (alleged) humidifier is running low on steam. Do those things need to be recharged? Plugged in? Should someone tell her?
That seemed to do the trick. Now Karygiannis is questioning Tory, in a refreshingly calm manner.
“THAT’S IT! THAT’S IT!” Yells Nunziata, sick and tired of all your shit.
Mammoliti to Tory: “You represent the city the way you want to, and I’ll represent the suburbs the way I want to.”
Mamoliti v. Tory is getting heated. Mamoliti calls Tory’s opinion “inflammatory”
Drink every time he mentions the “war on cars”
And here comes Mamoliti for questioning.
Tory: “At the end of the day this is the right thing to do; this is the way to get facts instead of pre-conceived opinions”
Tory on the long-winded debate regarding Bloor bike lanes: “We have refried, denied, deferred, referred…” [it goes on like this]
Tory says the sensible thing to do here is create a pilot, collect the facts, and assess the impacts of the project.
John Campbell’s (Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre) support for the project is a big surprise. Previously, Campbell has been vehemently anti-bike lane, but had something of an awakening this morning.
“I am supporting this project,” says Mayor John Tory.
Campbell speaks, voicing support for the pilot project. “I hope you get a flat,” replies Mamoliti.
We’re hereby filing a freedom of information request for the rest of Bike Wars: Ward 19 Strikes Back. We know there’s a full-length version somewhere.
“I think my position is pretty clear” says Jedi Mike Layton.
Joe Cressy looks like he’s going to pee himself.
He even created his own spin-off on the Star Wars intro, narrating the pilot project plans over music.
Layton has begun his speech with the Star Wars soundtrack. This is really happening.
“We need to get rid of the ‘one ways’, the ‘do not enters’ [around Bloor street]” in order to solve traffic spikes off Bloor that may come with bike lanes, says Perruzza.
“Rarely could I find parking on Bloor street, but we would still frequent the street anyways.” says Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8, York West). Perruzza supported the pilot project at the PW&I committee.
“Can we get that alligator off the screen?” asks Paula Fletcher.
Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches East-York) says she’s “really disappointed” in this debate, citing support for the bike lane pilot. To emphasize her point, she’s displayed a massive picture of a dinosaur on the screen.
Holyday voices concerns for negative environmental impacts if bike lanes are put in place. According to this environmental lawyer, Holyday shouldn’t be too concerned.
Minnan-Wong says he’s willing to approve the pilot, however is skeptical of the project in the long-run.
“The thing that drives people CRAZY,” says Minnan-Wong emphatically. “Is people sitting in traffic, and then there’s this bike lane on their side that’s completely empty.” On that note, here are some safety tips for biking in the winter.
More “are you aware” questions. Nunziata is trying to put this to bed.
Fletcher executing a textbook cross-examination at Minnan-Wong: “would you agree that some people just don’t like cycling?”
Update: no, he didn’t.
Minnan-Wong not answering Cressy’s question regarding whether or not he consulted the General Manager, Transportation Services on conducting a poll.
Minnan-Wong says dissenters of the pilot project are afraid to speak up for fear of criticism. Perhaps true, but a highlight reel of Mamoliti yelling about the war on cars is running through my brain right now.
Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong motions that city council, following the completion of the pilot project, request the city clerk to poll tenants along Bloor street.
Mihevc finishes — jazz hands are up.
Mihevc: “I hope to God that the folks who are in the suburbs recognize that it’s different in the downtown area — it’s all about achieving mobility here.” Holyday is only sort of paying attention.
“It’s unbelievable how many people take these cycling routes,” says Mihevc. He’s comparing us to European cities — Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam — all of which have enviable cycling infrastructure.
Okay here we go; Mihevc begins the speaker session with “of course I’m going to support this pilot project.”
“We cleaned up York,” says Nunziata, once again reminiscing of the good old days. Council’s been slow, needless to say.
We theorize the mysterious steam machine may in fact be a humidifier. But nothing’s been confirmed.
What is it? Where did it come from? Is she cooking something? Here at Torontoist, we have so many questions about this important matter.
Councillors are still releasing items, so in the meantime we’re investigating the little steam machine that councillor Christin Carmichael Greb has on her desk.
Council is still going through releases…
@norm is here physically, but perhaps not mentally.
Here’s an example of the preferred design of the pilot project along Bloor:
Members of council can (read: will) now release holds on agenda items prior to voting on the Bloor street bike lane’s proposed pilot project.
Aaaaand we’re back.
Shoutout to the one (of two) outlet(s) situated near audience seating for saving this live-blog from imminent peril.
Council is in recess. Will resume at 2:00 pm. Stay tuned!
Shelley Carrol says we should “join the revolution” of switching to enviro-friendly forms of transportation, triggering jazz hands galore.
It’s also Jane Jacobs’ would-be 100th birthday today! Here’s a very relevant photo of Jacobs with a bike.
“For those worrying about Yorkville…” begins Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale), definitely not referring to Mammoliti. Wong-Tam is voicing support for the pilot project and the PW&I committee chair’s recommendations.
Karygiannis interrupts the “kumbaya moment.”
Councillors are taking a moment to reminisce. “I remember the milk trucks,” says Nunziata.
Paula Fletcher says that she’s worked on bike lanes for a very long time. Maybe this is a bad time to bring up that moment where she accidentally killed the proposed University Avenue bike lanes?
The deferral fails, with only six councillors in support of the motion.
Jim Karygiannis, unsurprisingly, expresses his support for deferral of the pilot project.
The proposed pilot project will cost $500,000, not including ongoing maintenance costs amounting to $95,000 annually.
Bike lanes in New York led to a 71% increase in retail, says Shelley Carrol (Ward 33, Don Valley East). “There’s nothing wrong in learning from other cities.”
Mary Fragedakis motions to have the bike lane vote after 2:00 pm. A couple “nooo”‘s from the crowd. It seems like that’s when the vote will take place, anyways.
“Wouldn’t the time to consult be after we’ve gotten some data or results?” asks Jon Burnside (Ward 26, Don Valley West), noting that, after all, we are approving a pilot project here.
“I don’t believe we’ve discussed bike lanes on Bloor before,” says Holyday. Here’s a timeline of the city’s long-winded debate on Bloor street bike lanes.
The bike-lane-supporter-in-a-neon-orange-shirt count is now at 6ix.
I wonder if Holyday thinks the sidewalks on parallel streets are redundant, too.
Stephen Holyday is really angry about the bike lanes. He has a PowerPoint presentation and everything.
Mamoliti is concerned about congestion in surrounding areas of Bloor street. This study hypothesizes that congestion will actually be reduced in surrounding areas.
Mammoliti argues that bike lanes are actually a way for downtowners to shut out the suburbs. “You’re trying to keep people out [of downtown] by doing this continually.”
Ever the heel, Mammoliti moves to receive the report, which means to do nothing with it.
That was probably a worthy heads-up, his “war on cars” rhetoric is full-throttle.
Robinson mentions the long history of the Bloor bike lanes. It’s true—they have been studied in detail for 40 years, as bike activist Albert Koehl details on his site.
Robinson reminds us that left-turn lanes will “make a big difference” (in a good way). Mamoliti begins; apologizes for ruining this kumbaya moment.
With Robinson’s support—presumably with the backing of the mayor—the Bloor bike lanes pilot project should win the vote. If it does, the pilot project is scheduled to begin in August.
The move by Robinson is a bit of a surprise. While she says she’s a big supporter of bike lanes in this speech, that did not come across at committee.
Robinson, chair of the PW&I committee, motions to adopt the staff recommendations in their entirety.
Stephen Buckley, the had of the Transportation division, responds to a line of questioning from Michelle Holland. “Sharrows would be no different from the existing conditions.”
“You recognize this pilot project is forcing the hand at the TPA” ask-argues Mammoliti. Specifically, the TPA will lose revenue anywhere between $800,000 – $1M. Staff replies that this is the most conservative estimate possible.
Mammoliti is inquiring how the staff plans to meet with local businesses on Bloor street, including Yorkville. The bike lanes will not extend to Yorkville.
Five pro-cyclists in electric orange shirts are seated along the left side of the chamber. One’s filming.
Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Pauls) is asking questions. Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) is eating jujubes — a candy of which city council has consumed around 17,000 pounds over the course of Anna Kinastowski’s time as city solicitor (so says Kinastowski).
The proposal was supported by Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8, York West) and Margaret-Mary McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches East-York) at the PW&I committee, yet rejected by Stephen Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Center) and Jaye Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley East).
Cllr. Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth) says that “Cycling increases sales in a commercial area”; references Portland, Oregon as an example. More Portlandia references perhaps?
Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), whose ward oversees a stretch of Bloor where the bike lane would be situated, is questioning staff.
The proposed item is to approve a pilot project on Bloor street that would temporarily place bike lanes between Shaw and Avenue road. Needless to say, there are a number of particularly pro-car advocates on city council, so this could take awhile. Read about the impossible task of convincing pro-car councillors of cycling benefits here.
The proposal moved through the Public Works & Infrastructure committee without approval, as the vote ended in deadlock.
Good morning! We are live from City Hall.
The proposed pilot project for Bloor street bike lanes is today’s big-ticket item. Here’s some background on the matter.
John Tory’s motions mostly pass. The changes support Uber’s entry into the market and undo many of the 2014 taxi reforms that council spent five years working on. Those reforms included increasing driver and customer protections, but as a way to appease plate owners (and restore some of the value of their licenses), those have been rolled back.
Davis adds that the impact of the motion will see Uber enter the marketplace and the taxi reforms undone, thus undoing years of work at council.
Davis on the package of changes backed by the mayor:
Frank Di Giorgio’s (Ward 12, York South-Weston) criticism of Uber’s business model being predicated on flouting the law is accurate. And he’s also right when he predicts this issue will come back, because there will be unintended consequences from such an unwieldy package of changes.
“Stop disrupting this council,” Speaker Nunziata says to the pro-taxi crowd.
Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8, York West) invokes Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the U.S., saying that they decry bad deals and this taxi motion is a bad deal. The yellow shirts in the room raised their jazz hands.
John Filion (Ward 23, Willowdale) is now up to speak, and moves a motion related to surge pricing.
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Tory just said something about how PTCs “create new jobs”. I will be taking a brief break to go out in the hall and scream.
Oh, wow. Perruzza is going in full Perruzza right away, lambasting low-paid, precarious, temporary jobs.
An interesting angle: John Campbell (Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre) is critical because the by-law is not friendly enough to Uber. He does not see why Tory wants to meddle with Uber’s pricing scheme by setting a floor price.
Whenever John Tory begins a sentence with “As a businessman…” he sounds a lot like The Lego Movie‘s Lord Business.
Oh, dear. Tory is inspired to wax eloquent about the value of surge pricing (and of not surge pricing).
Vincent Crisanti (Ward 1, Etobicoke North) can be safely ignored.
Cressy says 1) no cap on how many plates someone can own and 2) no requirement for plate owners to drive means that plates are a commodity again.
Cressy calls Tory out on an inconsistency—limousine drivers don’t have to have CPR training, so why should taxi drivers?
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“This may seem like a good deal for the businesses, but it’s not a good deal for the drivers,” protests Layton.
“I’d like us to put ourselves in the drivers’ shoes for a moment,” says Mike Layton, regarding first aid training. He says Tory’s proposed changes imply that taxi drivers would have to complete training every time they start for a new brokerage, instead of just once with the City.
Tory says surge pricing is okay because taxi companies can use “we don’t surge price” to market themselves.
Karygiannis asks how by-law officers are supposed to tell whether a car is UberX or not. Tory says a rule to display a plate would be too hard to enforce.
Now up is Jim “Jimmy ‘The Wildcard’ K.” Karygiannis. This will be interesting…
Perks asks Tory to clarify the clause that “all vehicle for hire drivers can be registered to work for one brokerage or communication platform at a time.” This would, for example, forbid taxi drivers from also booking through Uber, as some do.
Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park) is up. She wants to know why Tory lowered the age requirement from 21 to 18. Tory stammers: “I think it’s just consistent with the reality of, uh…” Disapproving murmurs from the gallery.
Many tête-à-têtes going on around the chamber. Left-wing councillors Wong-Tam, Cressy, Davis, and Layton are in a huddle.
There are fully kitted-out cops here as well as City Hall security. It is probably a good decision.
Jon Burnside (Ward 29, Don Valley West) says it’s fine that licensed taxi drivers aren’t compensated for discounting rates because they get to benefit from surge pricing, too.
Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth) questions why Tory removed the requirement for taxi drivers to be trained in CPR. Tory says it’s what the public wants.
“You’re getting stabbed in the back, you guys,” calls Janet Davis to watching taxi drivers.
Laughter throughout the gallery as Tory completely fumbles in response to Augimeri’s questions. He is not coming off very well.
Tory holds out the requirement for PTCs to have $2,000,000 in liability as an example of compromise. He says PTCs that don’t meet the requirement can get their licence yanked by Municipal Licensing & Standards.
Is there any reason to believe Uber will accept being defined as a PTC by the City, and whatever rules come with the title? topoli
— Glyn Bowerman (@Banquos_Banquet) May 3, 2016
A good point from transit writer Glyn Bowerman. If Uber was fine with disregarding City regulations before, what compels them to follow (less restrictive) rules?
De Baeremaeker tosses Tory a softball: doesn’t this make the playing field slightly less unequal, even if it isn’t exactly equal?
Davis asks Tory if he is willing to allow surge and discount pricing on both sides, PTC and taxis. Tory is only willing to let taxis do surge pricing—not discounts. Taxi drivers can discount the rate, but the broker does not have to reimburse them.
The more nervous Tory gets, the faster he talks.
In the committee room overflow room, Spiderman watches on next to a pro-taxi supporter who doesn’t want a two-tiered system.
(When a member of Council starts off an answer without “yes” or “no”, you know you’re about to hear some bullshit.)
Davis is trying to get Tory to admit “there will be no training required for anyone in the taxi industry”. Tory is still trying to pass it off to Tracey Cook. He says it will be enough to make a training manual available to companies.
Tory is attempting to pass the buck to Tracey Cook, saying all his recommendations are on her advice. (Yet somehow they weren’t in the staff recommendations?)
“Essentially what you’re creating is, some people are getting a bonus,” says Mihevc, criticizing another of Tory’s recommendations. He would let Ambassador licence holders to convert their licences into Standard licences, which would let them become brokers in their own right.
Carroll is also disturbed that now there are no requirements for anyone to follow a training course. Tory says that the Invisible Hand will compel companies to train their drivers.
Carroll says she understood that “up till a few hours ago” Tory’s office was fine with the taxi broker having to absorb the costs of discounted fares, but in Tory’s motion this would require the taxi driver to swallow the cost of discounted fares.
Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8, York West) complains they didn’t have enough time to read Tory’s motion. “Start reading, Anthony,” barks Nunziata as councillors sign up to ask questions of the Mayor.
With a pro-taxi yellow t-shirt draped over his shoulders, Doug Ford has made an appearance at city hall. He just can’t give it up.
Perks has asked for a five-minute recess to give us all time to read the motion. Please, God, let this pass.
He intends to add more regulations for PTCs while loosening regulations for licensed taxis. Whether the motion actually accomplishes this will require closer reading.
Tory has a very lengthy motion, which one hopes is the result of a lot of compromise and discussion with Council. It is posted towards the bottom of the page here.
Perks is ask-arguing that, thanks to the laws of supply and demand, introducing more vehicles for hire will further decrease taxi drivers’ already low incomes.
Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) asks why cameras in cabs were introduced. Cook replies that, according to the police, they reduced “driver safety incidents” by 50 per cent.
Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) is also hammering on how the City is proposing rolling back the reforms made only two years ago. It does make one want to tear one’s hair out, just a little.
Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth) brings up the introduction of food trucks, which is an interesting comparison. Council, swayed by the objections of the well-established restaurant industry, implemented stricter regulations than Municipal Licensing & Standards had suggested. Couldn’t we do that again? asks Fletcher.
“I leave it to your learned discussions and debates and decisions,” Cook says, somehow managing to keep a straight face.
Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) gets Cook to give everyone a rundown on why the 2014 Toronto Taxi Licence model, aimed at replacing Standard and Ambassador Licences, was introduced in the first place. “Is that going forward, or is that going backwards?” Cook now has the unenviable task of defending the flip-flop.
“Through you, Madam Speaker, do you need a vacation?” Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York) asks Tracey Cook.
“Hopefully not a permanent one,” Cook quips. Lols all round.
Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) asks how the flood of new, non-accessible vehicles is helping Toronto meet its accessibility requirements. Tracey Cook: “Uber Wave so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”
Michael Thompson (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre) name-drops Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, who recently aired his views on Uber.
Frank Di Giorgio asks whether Uber’s business model can work without surge pricing. Tracey Cook replies it’s not within her scope. “Well, it’s within my scope,” says Di Giorgio, incorrectly, and says surge pricing is essential to Uber’s model. This is debatable.
We are now back to the business at hand. Tracey Cook says that the “pre-booked” nature of Uber rides means the driver and customer know who each other are, like airport limousines, and so they didn’t recommend cameras in PTCs. Karygiannis murmurs darkly something about “what if an accident were to happen”.
Mayor John Tory introduces an item that is a surprise to me: City Solicitor Anna Kinastowski is retiring, and so they need to appoint an interim City Solicitor.
Mammoliti stands up to “make a point” that routine Ward 2 items, like the tree removal permit currently being voted on, should be deferred several months until a new councillor is elected or appointed. He requests to change his vote. De Baeremaeker points out that this means Mammoliti is voting to save a tree. They bicker off mic.
Former councillor Doug Ford and current TDSB trustee Michael Ford (Ward 1, Etobicoke North) are in attendance, although the motion regarding a new Ward 2 councillor might not be up today.
In the worst case, Council could pass dozens of contradictory, overlapping motions, whose implications would take days to reconcile.
— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) May 3, 2016
Best outcome: socialist revolution
Likely outcome: see above
Comedy outcome: Council accidentally bans cars, with big implications for the Bloor bike lane debate.
Clerks and councillors begin to trickle in. Jim Karygiannis (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) enters to loud applause. This is the most popular he’s ever been. We will let him bask in this moment.
City Hall security have gotten better at handling big crowds like this. Only a few minutes after the elevators open, the public gallery is packed—a sea of taxi yellow with two or three in Uber blue.
And now, it’s lunchtime. Back at 2!
Doucette notes that UberX drivers don’t have to have a light on their car showing if they have a paying customer in the vehicle. One imagines someone reaching out the window and clapping one of these on top.
Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park) asks about low emissions standards for vehicles for hire. The City is taking a hands-off approach, Cook replies, and notes that vehicles are getting more fuel-efficient nowadays.
Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale–High Park) says the word “aeroplane.” That is all.
Apparently I have an Uber lobby doppelganger. This has caused some momentary confusion with my rotunda neighbours.
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“We all know people who do not have smartphones,” says Stephen Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre). “Members of my immediate family do not have smartphones.” (His father, former councillor Doug Holyday, was notoriously technically illiterate.)
Tracey Cook estimates some 17,000 licensed individuals in the taxi industry, including drivers, license owners, fleet operators, and so on.
Now, on the floor, a chant shaming Tracey Cook. (To be fair, she has to do what Council directs, and is not directly answerable to the public.)
Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) complains about the City’s 103 recommendations. “It’s too many damn pages for any man to understand!” No, wait, maybe that was from Hamilton.
Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York) points out that the direction the City was previously moving in—owner-operated cabs, which would take power away from taxi brokers—is effectively reversed by the new proposed regulations. Cook says that it’s different now that the taxi industry is facing competition.
Acronym watch: “PTC” means “private transportation company”, which is the City’s name for companies like Uber and Lyft.
Lots of cheers and whoops from assembled taxi crowd as Cho points out another point of disparity: UberX’s discount rates and surge pricing, are not permitted for taxi drivers. (Or for UberX, really, but they do it anyway.)
“Remember, my brothers,” a taxi guy calls, “you are here because you are legal!”
Raymond Cho (Ward 42, Scarborough-Rouge River) says it’s unfair that taxi drivers have to pay more than UberX drivers for insurance. Cook explains that the City doesn’t control how much insurance costs; it’s calculated based on several different factors. The City believes taxi drivers should have at least $2,000,000 in liability.
For more context on the Uber debate, Mammoliti and Jim Karygiannis (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) are the staunchest supporters of the taxi industry. Ironically, they are also the most disruptive.
It’s not all taxis and bikes at city hall. There’s also the Raptor, who is the best.
Aaaaaand now the cops are here. And, of course, a news guy with a camera to capture it all. They can smell drama like a shark smells blood.
Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West), a very pro-taxi councillor, is pushing the “level playing field” talking point. “The level of the playing field depends on the viewpoint you’re standing from,” says Tracey Cook.
As Mammoliti is asking questions, a scuffle breaks out in the rotunda when a taxi guy lunges at an Uber guy. Security descends on the scene.
Some stats Municipal Licensing & Standards head Tracey Cook has tossed out so far: taxi traffic makes up three per cent of travel in Toronto; the City estimates there are 45,000 unlicensed rides every day.
“I wasn’t going to ask questions but thanks to Councillor Burnside I’m going to ask questions,” says Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East). Contrary to Burnside (Ward 26, Don Valley West), she thinks taxis should have to put on winter tires.
For an introduction to the issues at stake, see Mariana Valverde’s op-ed.
Good morning, everyone! Neville Park here, reporting from…the City Hall rotunda, because Council chambers are crammed full of taxi drivers. Council has just begun a big, contentious debate over Uber and taxi licensing.