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Nicholas Cameron’s death was “a tragedy,” Mayor Tory says during driver training debate

Click on the image above to view Mayor Tory’s remarks.

Five years after his own personal Motion at Council enabled Uber to enter the ground transportation market in Toronto, Mayor John Tory appears to be conceding that mistakes were made.

At the November 10 online meeting of Toronto Council, Tory 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.

“As I have heard people mention here tonight, this is about safety,” Tory explained.

Several Councillors referred to the 2018 incident in which Nicholas Cameron, 28 years old, died in an accident on the Gardiner Expressway. Cameron was the passenger with an Uber driver who had been licensed to drive a vehicle for hire for only two days. The driver was completely unfamiliar with Toronto’s geography and was attempting to manage his smartphone while driving when the accident occurred.

In fact, Mayor Tory referred to Nicholas Cameron by name in his remarks, referring to the incident as “a tragedy.”

Licensing and Standards Director Carlton Grant told Council that a Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued to training providers on November 9th, one day before the meeting and more than two years after the being directed to do so by Council. Licensing staff maintain COVID-19 activities prevented them from implementing a training program any sooner, which Tory said was “not acceptable.”

Under the schedule outlined by Grant, training RFPs are expected to be submitted for evaluation in early December for program launch in early January, 2022. Licensing staff are currently working on a comprehensive report reviewing the vehicle for hire industry for submission on November 30, 2021.

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.”

Marc Andre Way, CEO of Conventry Connections and President of the CTA

“It is astonishing that it has taken this many years and hours of deliberation throughout those years for councillors in Toronto to finally understand the importance of training,” says Marc Andre Way, President of the Canadian Taxi Association and CEO of Ottawa-based Coventry Connections, which provides Taxi and limousine services to the capitol. 

“To let individuals so easily apply, receive a license and drive people for compensation should never have been simplified to this level. In Ottawa, taxi drivers need to have a course, the course is offered by the company, the driver is tested and we issue a proper certificate which the driver uses to get his taxi license. Uber –  nothing, a 5 minutes online training video.”

Way was impressed with remarks by Councillor Gord Perks, who urged other councillors to acknowledge they made a mistake in eliminating training for all vehicle for hire drivers: “Perks’ comment is the most poignant, as he refers to the removal of training ‘because it did not fit Uber’s business model.’ This says it all: while Uber balks at spending money on the safety of the drivers or passengers, it spends millions on lobbying all levels of government to influence politicians that regulations need to be changed to adopt to their business model, regardless the cost or implications.”

“For over 100 years, driving a taxi was a career for many, a licensing and training regime was created for a reason.  Finally, we see certain people realizing that.”