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Deja-vu all over again? Tory intervenes to prevent definitive driver training motion from passing

In 2016, Mayor John Tory intervened with his own Motion to re-write the City’s Taxi by-law, providing ride-hailing companies with lenient new standards more to their liking.

Five years later, in 2021, he has done exactly the same thing in the debate around vehicle for hire driver training.

As Yogi Berra once noted, “It’s like deja-vu, all over again.”

The Motion that eventually passed Council on December 17th is pretty hard to argue with: vehicle for hire drivers should be trained. Everyone now agrees that should happen, the sooner the better, especially since the City is being sued for the death of a passenger in an Uber driven by an untrained driver.  

In the December 17th Motions, the devil was in the details: Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam specifically proposed that preference be given to training programs involving in-class and in-car training, and starting with all the untrained drivers first.

Mayor Tory’s motion makes no mention of in-car, in-class, or online training, or prioritizing untrained drivers. Tory is all for training as soon as possible; of course, voting against that is now like voting against motherhood and/or apple pie.

Given a choice between being specific and rigorous (in-car and untrained drivers first) in Wong-Tam’s motion and being vague and amorphous (yeah, some kind of training, some day) in Tory’s motion, Toronto Council again voted for the Motion Most Likely to Please Ride-Hailing Companies. Unanimously. So much for concerns over the $8 million wrongful death lawsuit that is so toxic, it can only be discussed in a confidential sessions of Council.

Councillor Wong Tam’s motion proposed: Mayor John Tory’s Motion proposed:
Start by training all unlicensed drivers first:

1) “City Council direct the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards begin the driver training accreditation program as soon as possible giving drivers who are currently licensed to operate, but who have not received training, priority for the driver training program and to report back to the General Government and Licensing Committee in the first quarter of 2022 with the outcomes.”

Give preference to programs with in-class and in-car training:
 
2) “City Council direct the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to give preference to training programs that have in class and in-car training requirements and confirm its support for the existing Request for Proposal and timeline for the driver training accreditation program outlined in the staff report.”

Gives no preference to untrained drivers:

1) “City Council direct the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards begin the driver training accreditation program as soon as possible.”

Makes no mention of in-class or in-car training, leaving the door open to fully on-line training.
 
2) City Council confirm its support for the existing Request for Proposal and timeline for the driver training accreditation program outlined in the staff report.

These were really the only two items that mattered in the Motion that eventually passed. (Although, Council’s realization, two years after COVID-19 started, that it has never given one second’s thought to the issue of vehicles for hire as a vector to for COVID was alarming; however, even two years late to the game, Toronto Council is still ahead of the Province of Ontario, so kudos to them for that.)

Canadian Taxi Association president Mark Andre Way noted on Friday, “Wong-Tam’s comments are an excellent summary of the issues at hand.” Click below to hear Wong-Tams remarks concerning the insubordinate actions of Licensing staff, and the untenable delays in getting important things done. These ideas go right to the heart not just of vehicle for hire safety, but of our democratic process:

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam speaks to the Motion regarding vehicle for hire driver training.

The Request for Proposals for training providers which was issued by Licensing staff on November 9th closed on December 10th. Eleven proposals were received for consideration; staff plan to make a decision on which organizations to contract for training in January 2022.

Although the RFP allowed for submitting training organizations to propose in-class, in-car and on-line training components, no priority need be given firms proposing in-class or in-car, as a result of the December 17th Council vote.

47,000 ride share drivers and 8,000 Taxi drivers will need to complete the training.