Ride-sharing bylaw put on hold

Kingston Area Taxi Commission pauses implementation of ride-share bylaw

Commissioners and taxi industry representatives outside City Hall.

The Kingston Area Taxi Commission (KATC) has put the brakes on a controversial bylaw, before its Sept. 15 implementation date, regulating ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft.

At a City Council meeting on Sept. 19, a KATC representative said the City of Toronto v. Uber 2015 ruling found Transportation Networking Companies (TNC), like Uber, aren’t taxi brokers.

As a result, the Commission doesn’t have the authority to regulate ride-sharing companies.

The Commission has been working for nearly three years to do so.

The KATC didn’t respond to The Journal’s request for comment.

Chloe Draeger, KATC Commissioner, said the body should follow other Ontario municipalities’ lead when drafting new regulations.

“I’m convinced that the only reasonable and workable path forward is creating a set of regulations that meet the best practices established in most other jurisdictions in Ontario,” she said.

When the Commission originally voted on the bylaw several months ago, Draeger voted in opposition.

“We need a regulatory structure that works for both the drivers and the riders,” she said.

A potential hurdle is also the Competition Bureau of Canada, which is an independent law enforcement agency tasked with ensuring fair business conditions.

In an interview, James Litchfield, a local resident and full-time Uber driver, said he contacted the Bureau in early August to file a complaint against the bylaw—which was slated to come into effect on Sept. 15.

Litchfield said until he discovered the Competition Bureau of Canada, he thought “all we could do was really protest” the KATC’s bylaw.

After Litchfield and a colleague filed complaints with the Bureau, he was asked for an interview with a law enforcement officer. Litchfield said he spoke with the officer about the bylaw, but the Bureau wouldn’t confirm to him that his complaint was the reason for the bylaw being pulled.

Litchfield said it “felt good” to file the complaint. 

“I felt that the Commission didn’t have Kingston’s best interests at heart. I felt the Commission was protecting the taxi industry too much,” he said.

The regulations Litchfield took issue with were the limiting of ride-sharing cars and a ban on business partnerships between ride-sharing companies and local businesses or institutions—on top of added expenses he experienced. 

Under the bylaw, companies like Uber could operate a maximum of 50 cars at any given time, with a total cap of 150 cars. “The 50 car rule, that just doesn’t work, especially when the Queen’s students are here,” he said. 

Citing his Competition Bureau complaint, Litchfield said he also opposed the ban on local business collaboration. “It’s like if I owned a pizza shop and I told my supplier, ‘Oh you can’t deliver your pizza supplies to my competition.’

Draeger said in her opinion, regulations governing ride-sharing should be created by lawmakers, rather than an unelected commission.

“As a voter, as a Kingston resident, I am very inclined towards important decisions being made by lawmakers who are elected and accountable,” she said. 

“That’s where solutions like this—that affect people’s lives—should be vested.”

 

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