Mississauga Disbands Uber Committee

Did Mississauga City councillors throw in the towel when it came to Uber?

In a recent council meeting, Ward 2 Councillor Karen Ras moved a motion concerning the troubled ride-sharing pilot program—a program that was designed to examine how to create a framework to allow Uber to operate in Mississauga.

The motion asks for the committee to be disbanded and it directed Mississauga city enforcement staff to prepare a report for General Committee recommending the terms of the public vehicle pilot program.

Now, this 'Uber' committee was set up in back May, and the most recent meeting was on October 25. It would seem that they decided that after those few meetings, the committee gathered enough information and they can now draft a report. But I can't help thinking, as I watched the political tsunami that engulfed the United States this week with the election of Donald Trump, whether Mississauga's local Uber situation shows that if you scream loud enough and are as offensive as possible, you too can get what you want.

What in the world am I talking about? I'm talking about how we at Insauga have documented the loud and rancorous disruptions at the meetings for the Uber committee, primarily from members of the taxi industry, led by a man named Karam Punian. To report on what happened each meeting would be like rehashing the plot in the movie Groundhog Day, whereby the same thing keeps happening over again. Meetings start, councillors and other members discuss and debate, then right in the middle, one of the taxi drivers stands up and starts shouting God knows what and interrupting the proceedings. The latest rounds of meetings had taxi cabbies denouncing Mayor Crombie and other members of the committee (at least seemingly the pro-Uber ones) as 'criminals', and one man threatened to 'put her (Crombie's) ass in the ground.' With Mayor Crombie being targeted by threats recently, I can understand her desire to stop the committee from continuing to give these protestors a forum for this kind of behaviour.

The taxi guys had a simple message: why are we creating a double standard for Uber to essentially break the law when working stiffs like taxi drivers have had to operate within these rules for generations? That is a legitimate point that I don't think our political leaders have addressed, but calling people criminals for doing their jobs and essentially threatening them with violence (whether you meant it or not) isn't the appropriate response.

But the possible chickening out on the part of Mississauga councillors looks just as bad. The committee's objectives were logical; disruptive technology is affecting the taxi industry not just in Mississauga, but around the world, and you either have some laws in place to govern that or Uber is going to operate anyway. Mississauga councillors could have stood their ground, seen this through (warts and all), and at least be openly accountable for their decision. Now, it seems they've backed down because a group of angry people with metaphorical pitchforks stormed their gates to try to get them to blink.

And guess what? They blinked. You can say all the information was gathered and the report is being finalized, but the optics are that those angry people forced them off their game plan.

While the Uber regulations for Mississauga will be coming, I doubt that the loud voices from the taxi industry will fade any time soon. But they really need to get their act together and ditch the inflammatory talk. Leave that to Trump's basket of deplorables.

Follow me on Twitter at @thekantastic

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