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Taxi drivers call off protest planned for Friday
A Toronto taxi drivers' group has called off a planned protest that would have snarled traffic on Friday by blocking major routes.
A representative for the United Taxi Workers Association told reporters the protest was planned to begin during evening rush-hour on Friday, ahead of the NBA All-Star game weekend. The protest would have resulted in thousands of cab drivers using their vehicles to block traffic on major routes into the city, including the Gardiner Expressway.
However, at a news conference Wednesday, UTWA representative Paul Sekhon said the group had decided to cancel the demonstration.
"We never had any intention to hijack the City of Toronto for this upcoming NBA All-Star event, but we were misled and everybody was hurt," Sekhon said.
He told reporters that the UTWA had decided not to protest, after they met with sympathetic Toronto city councillors.
"We understand that doing a strike like this would just cause a big mess for local businesses and a big inconvenience for the public."
The protest was meant to urge city officials to make changes to the way UberX operates in Toronto. UberX, Uber Canada's most popular service, has been operating in Toronto for more than a year. The service connects app users with people who have signed up as drivers, using their own vehicles.
The service claims that UberX is a communication service, not a cab company, and therefore exempt from taxi regulations. As a result, drivers working for UberX don't have to purchase taxi licences or complete the required taxi-training program.
Taxi drivers say they are losing customers because UberX isn't required to follow the same regulations, so can charge lower prices.
Speaking at the UTWA news conference, Toronto Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker asked Toronto residents and tourists to avoid taking UberX, calling it an "illegal" service.
"If you love somebody, do not let them get into an Uber cab," he said.
When asked about the protest before it had been cancelled, Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters he was calling on taxi drivers to be rational and reasonable.
"It will disrupt the city for no gain. The taxi drivers who are struggling...will not gain anything by this protest," he said.
"In fact there's been arguments made by others that they will lose from this in terms of public opinion."
Tory reiterated that the city is re-examining its regulations, which will be updated in the spring.