Cab drivers block traffic around City Hall in Uber protest
Toronto Sun May 14, 2015 Don Peat
TORONTO – More than 100 taxi drivers parked their cars around City Hall on Thursday.
The two-hour middday protest snarled traffic on Bay and Queen Sts. and representatives of the drivers warned there will be more protests in the coming weeks.
Many of the drivers ditched their cabs and gathered in Nathan Phillips Square to protest Uber and urge the City of Toronto to put the ride-sharing service out of business. The city is in the midst of legal action against Uber.
“This is a strike, cab strike,” driver Hamza Rehma told the Sun as he stood beside his cab parked on Bay St.
“We want them to shut down Uber.”
Mayor John Tory’s spokesman Amanda Galbraith blasted the protest.
“These continuing high pressure tactics used by a narrow segment of the ground transportation industry are disappointing. Instead of working towards a solution, they chose to disrupt the lives of hundreds of Torontonians while doing little to advance the public interest,” Galbraith said.
“Was the disruption about better service for the people of Toronto? Lower fares? More choice? More convenience? Unfortunately not.
“The mayor has been clear: Public interests have to come ahead of special interests and he intends to see that they do.”
Councillors Janet Davis and Jim Karygiannis both joined the protest in Nathan Phillips Square.
“Uber, you can leave town,” Davis said in a speech to the drivers.
Beck Taxi owner and president Gail Beck-Souter said she was at the protest to support the cab driver “who is feeling the pinch.
“They’re feeling that their income is going down,” Beck-Souter said. “Frankly, they are taking away jobs.
“There is no rules that Uber is willing to follow.”
Uber Canada spokesperson Susie Heath shrugged off the protest.
“Instead of blocking the roads, we’re at the table engaged in an open dialogue to help advance the best interests of Torontonians,” Heath said. “We’re changing how people get around our city and improving the lives of thousands of local driver partners by providing flexible earning opportunities.
“Our focus remains on working with city officials to create a sensible regulatory framework for ridesharing, the benefits of which are already being enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Torontonians.”
Tracey Cook, executive director of the city’s municipal licensing and standards, issued a statement on the protest.
“We recognize the right of individuals to freedom of speech and assembly. We do, however, expect participants to conduct themselves in accordance with the law,” Cook said.
A city spokesman said bylaw officers “attended the area and did not observe any bylaw related infractions.”
The protest wrapped up shortly after 1 p.m.