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Is Toronto going to debate, re-debate, un-debate, uber-debate, meta-debate driver training again, two years later?

At the rate Toronto is going, it might as well hold discussions around vehicle-for-hire driver training in a set of revolving doors. Photo: The Chicago Door People

Is Toronto Council once again reversing its position on the importance of vehicle for hire driver training?

At the November 10 online meeting of Toronto Council, Mayor John Tory and the vast majority of Councillors voted in favour of pausing the issuance of new licenses to drivers for hire until the training program mandated by Council in 2019 is implemented.

On November 30, the General Governance and Licensing Committee considered, debated and voted on several items and amendments to a long-awaited Licensing staff report on the topic before forwarding it to Council with a clear mandate.

48 hours before today’s Council meeting, Licensing staff have submitted a fulsome “supplement” to the original report, containing loads of information and opinion that should have been before Committee on November 30th.

Now, the full Toronto City Council is supposed to waste everybody’s time debating a staff report that was intended to be written and submitted to Licensing Committee months ago? What was the point of the Committee meeting? Will Toronto wait another two years to launch its driver training program, already the subject of a lawsuit in one tragic death?

Today, ten days before Christmas, one month before training suppliers are to be identified and the training program to begin implementation, a full City Council will be asked to debate items that were already debated and resolved at Licensing Committee on November 30?

Which begs the question: who runs Toronto? The elected representatives, or the unelected bureaucrats?

The motion passed by Committee on November 30 stated“That the General Government and Licensing Committee recommend that:

1. City Council direct the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to report to the meeting of City Council on December 15 and 16, 2021 with recommendations on potential refinements to the new driver training program in regards to:

a. requiring that all vehicle-for-hire and private transportation company driver training be provided through existing, accredited, public institutions and include in-car examinations;

b. providing acknowledgement and a training credit for drivers previously trained by the City’s training program;

c. providing drivers who are currently licensed to operate but who have not received training top priority for the new training program; and

d. including education on sexual assault and harassment prevention.”

The supplementary staff report tabled December 13th completely contradicts the first three of these four points.

This “supplementary” report, which appears to be more of a staff rebuttal to elected Councillors stated wishes, shouldn’t even be considered by Council. Council should reject the new, 11th-hour staff report and consider the report forwarded democratically elected, duly-appointed Committee members.

“As I have heard people mention here tonight, this is about safety,” Tory stated told Council on November 10th. Click on the image above to view Mayor Tory’s remarks.

Click here to read the full transcript of Mayor Tory’s remarks at the November 10 debate on Driver Training

“There can be no working around the tragedy of Nick Cameron, or anything like that. It’s tragic. It’s not acceptable. And I am not going to make excuses for anybody here today, including our officials who otherwise I said yesterday, I meant every word of it.

But they do an excellent job and have done an excellent job during the pandemic. But two and a half years, two and a half years to come forward with the training program that’s still not in front of us is not acceptable. It’s just not acceptable.

I don’t believe, however, that to take the second part of this motion, which prescribes exactly how that’s going to happen, when there is an RFP out there and prescribe it in any event, because that part is on the fly. I believe I’m correct in saying that that part did not go to the committee was not considered by the committee, and therefore it is not formed part of what was the recommendation of the committee? And I don’t think that’s right. And so what I think is, it makes sense. And I concur.

Whoever said a couple of minutes ago, but you know, there are other items that it was Councillor Layton that were that were directions given by council a couple of years ago, if not longer, to our staff to report on certain items. I’m told that report is coming in December.

So, what I would suggest is, because I think it is time, we have to make a statement, as some have said today that we do support the part of this motion from Councillor Wong Tam, that brings about a stop in the issuance of licenses. And if people are not happy about that, well, then they can reflect on why it’s happening.

Because we’ve gone two and a half years, and I’ve expressed this frustration in here in my own office for some time, but I don’t govern how these things happen. And I think that, that we then can either not have the other party approved by us at this point in time and refer it off to be incorporated into the report that’s coming with respect to how the training should be carried out or other places where that could be considered.

But I think the signal we could send to make the point that was made by a couple of people, which is that you know that let’s be frank, this motion of the stopping of the issuance of licenses will not make for one safer driver among all those who are out there on the streets now. And so, but by stopping the issuance of licenses, we won’t add to that number of people who have not been trained.

We can send a very clear signal by so doing that we are really serious about the fact that two and a half years is way too long, that the answer is given today, we’re not specific enough in terms of exactly when we would have this problem remedied. And that it’s about safety. That’s what it’s about. We’ve heard everybody say that today.

But, the other part that was down below starts to be very prescriptive in terms of exactly how this would be. And that is making policy on the fly where we don’t do a good job when we do that. I mean, I just think we have to be honest about that. We just don’t we have we should get a staff report on that. And it could come incorporated into the report that is coming before us in December in any event on the other on fulfilled directions of this council with respect to the policy in this area. And so, I think they’re working on the possibility that we could sort of say yes to part one of this, which was the original part, you said, request a pause, then it went to direct that there be a pause. And I’m fine with that. I’m fine with that.

But the other part that was down below starts to be very prescriptive in terms of exactly how this would be. And that is making policy on the fly where we don’t do a good job when we do that. I mean, I just think we have to be honest about that. We just don’t we have we should get a staff report on that. And it could come incorporated into the report that is coming before us in December in any event on the other on fulfilled directions of this council with respect to the policy in this area.

And so, those are my comments, Speaker.”