Taxi union goes to court over Ottawa's Uber bylaw

Taxi union goes to court over Ottawa's Uber bylaw

The union representing taxi drivers in Ottawa is accusing the city of acting in bad faith and misleading the industry when it brought in legislation last year legalizing companies like Uber, according to a lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court last week.

It's been almost exactly one year since Ottawa city council passed new "vehicle-for-hire regulations" — the first jurisdiction in Ontario to do so — to bring ride-hailing services like Uber in line with the city's taxi bylaws. 

Companies must obtain a licence from the city to operate, but unlike taxi plate owners, individual Uber driver don't have to pay an annual fee.

The union's lawsuit alleges the new rules put traditional cab drivers at a disadvantage, arguing that over a three-month period during which so-called private transportation companies (PTCs) provided 1.4 million rides in Ottawa, "80 per cent of these fares represent[ed] fares taken from taxicab drivers. 

"The city has also slanted the playing field in favour of PTC drivers, without considering the effect on the economic interests and livelihoods of taxi drivers," reads the court document.

"Taxicab drivers were promised that regardless of what actions the city took, results would be a 'level playing field' for all parities concerned.... However, the exact opposite resulted from the city's taxi review."

City demonstrated 'closed mind'

Unifor Local 1688 president Pierre Nakhle, a taxi driver himself, and vice-president Nega Haile, also a driver, filed the lawsuit, which argues the market has been flooded with an unlimited number of unlicensed vehicles and drivers.

They say taxi drivers weren't given adequate notice of the city's plans. 

"The city demonstrated a closed mind and unwillingness to properly notify, consult with and consider in an even-handed, good faith manner, the direct consequences, and in particular, the commercial effect of its proposed changes to the taxi scheme in the City of Ottawa," the lawsuit alleges.

The applicants are asking the court to quash the bylaw. They aren't asking for any monetary reward beyond the costs of the application. 

The allegations have not been tested in court.

A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21. 

It's not the only lawsuit against the city regarding its bylaw changes.

In August the taxi industry filed an uncertified class-action lawsuit for $215 million against the City of Ottawa over the new rules.