What caused Tracey Cook to change her mind about Uber?

by Harvey Spiegel. Q.C.

Superior Court Of Justice Toronto,Ontario, Retired

Harvey Speigel, Q.C. Photo: LinkedIn

On Nov. 18 2014, at a press conference announcing the City’s application to restrain all Uber operations in Toronto, Tracey Cook, the executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards Division of the City (MLS) said:

“Uber has been operating since 2012 without a proper taxi brokerage license or a limousine brokerage license and since September of 2014 have been recruiting unlicensed drivers with unlicensed vehicles to provide taxi services.”

Uber’s unregulated status puts people in harm’s way due to unregulated fares resulting in alleged price gouging, inadequate insurance, increased safety risk to the drivers due to lack of training.

In her sworn affidavit filed in support of the City’s application, Cook also made the following statements:

  1. The City has brought this application to restrain Uber’s ongoing business operations in the Toronto because Uber is operating in flagrant disregard of the City’s licensing regime, even while it aggressively promotes and expands its services and continues to recruit drivers.
  2. Also, the longer that Uber continues to operate in the City, the greater the potential
    for damage to the taxi and limousine industries. …, protecting the economic interests of participants within these industries is not the City’s role as regulator, but the City has an interest in the long-term sustainability of the industry because it is an important part of the public transportation network. The
    City wants, among cither things, tdencourage-investment toensure safe, affordable; and equitable service, increase the number of accessible and fuel-efficient taxicabs, and support other important policy initiatives.
  3. I am also concerned about Uber vehicles increasing congestion in Toronto and,
    particularly, the downtown core, which is a key consideration the City makes when determining the appropriate number of taxicabs. It is important to the economic and environmental well-being of the City and beneficial to public health for the City to reduce vehicular traffic when possible; increasing the number of vehicles operating as taxis and limousines will do the opposite.
  4. Therefore, for the protection of public safety, consumers, and the economic and
    environmental well-being of Toronto, the City is seeking clear direction that Uber must cease its operations immediately. It is important to the City and to the public that the issues raised in this application be determined quickly, on an urgent basis

As the executive director of the body charged with the duty to enforce the City’s Licensing laws, Ms. Cook, has an obligation to explain to the public what has caused her to change her mind since she made these statements.

The City’s 2014 injunction application failed because the court found that narrow definitions of Taxicab Broker and Limousine Service Company in the Municipal Code did not capture the activities carried on Uber. Following this decision, the City amended these definitions in the Code to clearly capture Uber’s activities.

Yet Uber continues to flagrantly flout the law; only now, they are doing so with 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles instead of an estimated 6000 in 2014. What has happened to Ms. Cook’s concern about of these vehicles impact on traffic congestion and impact on the economic and environmental well-being of the City?

What happened to her concern about the potential for damage to the taxi and limousine industries? That potential has now become a devastating reality which seriously threatens the long-term sustainability of an industry that in Ms. Cooks words “is an important part of the City’s public transportation network.”

In 2014, Ms. Cook asked the Court to act on an urgent basis to direct Uber to cease its operations immediately for the protection of public safety, consumers, and the economic and environmental well-being of Toronto.

What has caused her to change opinion about the imminent danger posed by Uber’s illegal activities?