June 24, 2014 6:37 pm

‘Taxi Widows’ claim city rules driving them out of business

TORONTO – Nusrat Raana’s husband was murdered behind the wheel of his own taxi in 2006. Now she is struggling to support her four children with the income from leasing out her late husband’s taxi licence plate.

“This is the only income we have,” she says.

Raana is one of Toronto’s so-called taxi widows, who inherited the valuable plates. But changes to Toronto’s taxi licensing system have thrown her way of life in jeopardy.

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A new licensing regime will come into effect on July 1 requiring licence holders to stop leasing out their plates within the next 10 years, and either sell them, or convert them to a new Toronto Taxi Licence (TTL). The TTL requires owners to drive the vehicles themselves, instead of leasing them out for extra income.

“This law works against me as a single mother,” Raana said at a Tuesday morning press conference. “It’s unrealistic for me to drive the taxi.”

The Toronto Taxi Alliance, which represents owners, also argues the changes have devalued the plates substantially. No longer can licence owners expect to sell their plates for upwards of $300,000.

“The value of the plates is probably half of what they were probably six months or a year ago,” says Judi Barr who owns a standard licence with her husband.

The Taxi Alliance is now seeking a court injunction while they appeal the bylaw.

City councillors who approved the new rules aren’t sympathetic.

“They knew this was coming they should have prepared for that,” Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the Public Works Committee said.

City staff say their goal is to have more owner-operated and wheelchair accessible cabs. It’s believed that will result in a higher level of service.

“The drivers are doing the work, we think they should have the plates,” Minnan-Wong said. “The city is interested in improving the industry, absentee owners down improve the industry.”

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