Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam spoke to her Motion before Licensing Committee on October 20th. Photo: toronto.ca
Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam spoke bluntly to Committee members on October 20th about the lack of training for vehicle for hire drivers:
“This issue is before you largely because of inaction from city staff,” she opened her remarks.
“You all recall that, in the year 2018, we experienced a horrific unfortunate death of Nicholas Cameron, a young man who was hailing an Uber vehicle…the driver was not well trained, did not seem to know the rules of the road. And, and he (Nicholas) was killed.
“And this is after council was … moving away from safety training.”
In 2016, after Toronto re-wrote its vehicle for hire by-law to permit ridesharing, it completely eliminated the driver training program it had been running for almost 50 years. Training was ended so swiftly after the Council vote on By-Law 546 that a classroom full of drivers who were half-way through the 17-day training program were dismissed from class and told to leave because training had been cancelled and was no longer required.
On October 1st, Wong-Tam introduced the Motion at City Council which was referred to the General Government and Licensing Committee, where she reminded Committee members of the preventable death of Nicholas Cameron in an Uber on the Gardiner Expressway in 2018.
“I think it was a sobering moment in time for all of us when Mr. Cameron lost his life. In 2019, City Council had a change of heart, and we said that we were going to reinstate the driver training, we were going to prioritize road safety. At the same time, we were spending a lot of energy and time and money trying to reinforce the concepts of road safety and Vision Zero,” Wong Tam reminded Committee members.
“Council’s direction was really clear. So, it’s rather surprising that almost two years out, we have not been able to establish the driver training that City Council said had to be put back into place.”
Since July 2019, when Council directed staff to re-institute driver training, about 40,000 ride hailing licenses have been issued but there is still no training program in existence.
“We cannot put more drivers on the roads that are unsafe, that are not properly trained in passenger pickup and drop off in the safety of the road, I think we can all recognize that the city roads are getting more and more dangerous and not safer.
“The persons that will generally be seriously injured, and potentially face to face death are oftentimes the vulnerable road users. And that includes the seniors, those who are not driving a vehicle, those are moving through the city through active transportation means. And I think that we have an obligation or duty to make sure that we keep them safe.”
Wong-Tam reminded Committee of a major lawsuit pending against the City: “One thing that everyone should be aware of is that there’s an $8 million lawsuit that has been filed against the city for the loss of life, largely because the claim is that the city council should have done more to keep passengers of users and Uber safe. And that claim is that we failed to do that.
“So I want to make sure that we don’t fail anyone any further. I think that we have spoken really clearly in 2019, when we stood up and said ‘Listen, let’s get back into the game of ensuring the business of ensuring road safety.’
“And I would hate to think that there was any move to defer that or delay that, despite the fact that there’s already a two-year delay.”