City Set To Put Public Safety On The Back Burner



    TORONTO, Dec. 11 /CNW/ - On Wednesday Toronto City Council will vote on
the acceptance of recommendations by the Licensing & Standards Committee which
include putting a freeze on the issuance of Toronto limousine licenses. This
will mean opening the door to illegal unlicensed operators that aren't subject
to the regulatory requirements that protect the public's safety. No license
means no insurance requirements, no vehicle inspections, no age limit, and no
standards. Why the move? Because of one city Councillor's allegiance to the
taxi industry. Confused yet? Here is the background.
    The Licensing & Standards Committee which oversees the governance of
business licenses in Toronto is chaired by Councillor Howard Moscoe. Back in
January the committee began the process of making changes so that the airport
limos could no longer pick up prearranged fares in Toronto going to the
airport. All this because the airport won't allow city taxis to pick up at the
airport. Since the taxis have Howard's ear, who has a family history in the
cab industry, their lobbying has convinced the councillor that he has the
right to choose for the public what service they can purchase when traveling
to the airport. That means that if you like to use one of the airport limo
services to travel to the airport you won't be able to after February 1, 2008.
You will have to use a city taxi or city licensed limousine service.
    There are two types of limousine services. There are the airport
limousines that are marked with GTAA identification and only go to and from
the airport, and private city licensed limousine services which do anything
from weddings to corporate and private travel.
    Prior to the GTAA taking over management of Lester B. Pearson
International Airport it was run by Transport Canada. At that time the airport
limos were issued licenses by Transport Canada which gave them the exemption
from holding a city license and the ability to pick up passengers from any
municipality as long as they were being transported to an airport owned and
operated by the Crown. With the new powers given under the City of Toronto Act
and the fact that the airport limos now have GTAA permits and not Transport
Canada Licenses, the exemption they enjoyed since the 1970's has been removed
by the will of Councillor Moscoe. In order to comply with the new requirement
the airport limos would have to acquire a city license and the only one
available until now are Toronto limousine licenses. Since Howard wants to
force the public into his taxi friend's cars the way to shut out the airport
services is to restrict the ability to get a Toronto license. In essence
freeze any new issuance beyond the current number of licenses in activity.
    Prior to May 2005 the city had a freeze on limousine licenses in place
since 1986. That's no typo! No limousine company in that time was able to
legally grow it's business by adding cars since no licenses were available.
The industry in general defied the fact that they couldn't get new licenses
and many added cars anyway making them either partially licensed or not at
all. The industry lobbied long and hard through the Ontario Limousine Owners
Association to have the freeze lifted and it finally convinced the city in
2005 that it should not be subjected to an artificial limit on license numbers
as it's members add vehicles to their companies based on demand and not the
availability of licenses as in the cab industry. As part of the negotiation
the industry had to agree, again under Moscoe's rule, to a requirement of
having stretched limousines in order to operate sedans. The ratio requires a
company to have one stretched limousine for the first two to four sedans, and
then one stretch for every additional six sedans. This was to create an
economic hurdle to prevent individuals form leaving the taxi industry and
jumping in to the limousine business and then compete with city cabs. The
ratio is onerous and too restrictive according to the industry but further
begs the question of whether or not the airport limousines would actually go
out and purchase the fifty plus stretched limos it would need, and not have
business for, in order to get city licenses for the 276 sedans they operate.
    Moscoe has drawn the city licensed limousine services into the battle
between the Airport and the City and has set the stage again for unlicensed
vehicles to exist. He also argues that there is a flood of limousines out
there since they opened up licensing two years ago. From 1986 until 2005 there
were 304 licenses in operation. Last year the number increased to 580 and
currently is at 660 according to city staff. Hardly a flood for one of the
largest cities in North America especially when you consider that those cars
were in operation anyway and the freeze lasted twenty years. What changed is
that all the cars that were previously unlicensed now are, and are inspected
twice a year. They are also subject to age limits.
    The report tabled at L&S on November 30th was a shock to the Toronto's
limousine industry as it was not consulted or advised that a freeze on
licensing would be included as a recommendation in order to shut out the
airport limousines. It only found out what was happening four days before the
meeting. That along with the short time in which the report was done and the
fact that the date staff chose to freeze the license issuance was also
November 30th, the same day as the L&S meeting leaves the industry to believe
that there was political pressure or interference to have a predetermined
outcome for the report. The deputations made by the industry at the committee
meeting fell on deaf ears.
    Furthermore the make up of the L&S Committee is being questioned by the
industry as it is made up of Councillors who openly and publicly admit they
either aren't familiar enough with the topics to make informed decisions or
aren't interested in being there. One Councillor later admitted his resentment
for being appointed to the committee. That leaves the decision making to
Councillors Moscoe and Minnan-Wong, and when it comes to taxi and limousine
issues both have demonstrated a clear bias towards siding with the taxi
industry's concerns. The OLOA does not feel that it or any business should be
governed in a manner other than one where decisions are reached based on
reason, fair judgment, and the public interest in mind.
<a href="http://global-alliance.ca/">http://global-alliance.ca/</a>.





For further information:

For further information: Joe Ironi, President, Global Alliance Worldwide
Chauffeured Services, Vice President, Ontario Limousine Owners Association,
Founded in 1996 and represents 180 member companies, Email:
joe@global-alliance.ca, Phone: (416) 806-1034

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ONTARIO LIMOUSINE OWNERS ASSOCIATION

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