Taxi cab owner: 'We reached out at regular intervals trusting in their reassurance that the by-laws would be changed'

By Pepper Parr

December 7th, 2021



Did you ever had a puppy that you had to train not to piddle on the floor? I had one and when he did his business where he wasn’t supposed to I’d give him a stern look and call him a bad dog and put him in his business box.

Scott Wallace did just that, gave Mayor Meed Ward a couple of paragraphs of some strong language when he wrote the following letter:

Our response to the Mayor’s statement on November 24th has not come easily. We must speak to the facts that outline our last few years urging for change in our local taxi industry. We could not be more proud of our Burlington Taxi team for their hard work and dedication over the last 53 years.

With all due respect, we take strong exception to our Mayor’s statement that asserts, “the Taxi By-Laws were written to protect Burlington Taxi” and that our “closure was unrelated to the by-law review request in 2018.”

We ask, what exactly has the By-Law protected? Did the By-Law protect the taxi drivers now out of work since November 2021? Did the By-Law protect Burlington Taxi from having to shut down its operations? Did the By-law protect taxi companies from unregulated competition; ride share companies that have enjoyed the luxury of no city license fees, no federal taxes, no commercial insurance, no vulnerable sector criminal checks, nor an obligation to support wheelchair accessible transportation?

Former Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster talks with Scott Wallace, proprietor of Burlington Taxi. Lancaster was on the Council that Wallace had taken his concerns about the taxi industry in 2018.

It gives us no pleasure to say that the city’s process failed to support its business community, taking little notice of our repeated pleas over the years for comprehensive change.

We saw the tsunami coming (Uber/Lyft drivers, the pandemic, a severe labour shortage, a spike in insurance rates). What we missed was the acknowledgement that our By-law request in November was one small part of a fulsome City By-law review initiated in 2018.

For the record, our final plea in November was to allow our drivers to continue working as employees under new Burlington Taxi ownership, and further give them the ability to align themselves with other Cab companies of their choice as independent operators, as every other city does in North America.

Facts don’t lie. The last time the City of Burlington reviewed its taxi by-laws was in 2009, which was written based on the recommendations of a consulting firm hired by the city of Burlington, not the taxi industry.

In 2016, the City was urged to review the new unregulated ride share service (Uber). Council and staff agreed to complete a review of these services. Our industry concern had little to do with Uber itself, but everything to do with regulation of the Uber business model. Regulation is what keeps people safe and ensures fair play among businesses. In Burlington’s case, the ride share industry has no responsibility to anyone – not to the city, not to its drivers, and definitely not to its customers. As a rider, if you experience an unsafe ride, or are a victim of excessive surge pricing, there is no one to call. The city has not regulated ride share companies, perhaps a way to absolve its responsibility, but it certainly doesn’t solve the problem.

Our former council, recognized that our Taxi By-Law was antiquated and in desperate need of comprehensive review. That is why, in early 2018, the former Mayor directed the City to commence a comprehensive review. Public record shows the details surrounding this direction. Nothing came of this.

Not liking the sound of that letter. Was it even read?

We thank our current Mayor for her recognition and issuing her statement on December 2nd regarding taxi, that, “In 2019, city staff formed a small team to look into the by-law review and removed the motion from the regular reporting list, with a plan to report back to council on progress. That report didn’t happen… We acknowledge that the review should have occurred. It didn’t, and for that, we take responsibility.”

“Facts don’t lie. The last time the City of Burlington reviewed its taxi by-laws was in 2009, which was written based on the recommendations of a consulting firm hired by the city of Burlington, not the taxi industry.”

It should not go without mention that we have reached out at regular intervals to the city, each time trusting in their reassurance that the by-laws would be changed.

The election of new city representatives unfortunately sidelined the former Council’s directive for a comprehensive review of the taxi industry and our hope for actual change.

Following our closure last month, Council has re-committed the City to reviewing and updating the Taxi By-Law.

Our hope is that the City will NOW actually follow through with meaningful change.

Our thanks to Ward 4 Councillor, Shawna Stolte, for taking up the torch and advocating for change.

Our City deserves it.

One small ray of hope.  There will be a Verbal Update on Licensing of New Taxi Businesses in Burlington at a Standing Committee on Tuesday.



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