TORONTO — A newly formed umbrella group representing Toronto’s increasingly bold cabbies is threatening strike action that would trip up the NBA All-Star Game weekend, as the taxi industry’s war against Uber and the city’s handling of the ride-sharing startup continues to escalate.
In response, Mayor John Tory said a traffic-snarling protest may face police enforcement to keep roads clear.
Paul Sekhon with the United Taxi Workers Association said disruptions like December’s street protest — which saw taxis block traffic, including some emergency vehicles, outside city hall — may happen again as basketball stars hit the court.
And the strike will be aimed squarely at Tory, who Sekhon accused of refusing to enforce the taxi laws against “illegal” UberX drivers.
“What’s going to happen this weekend is due to the mayor,” he said Monday.
“They should be going and shutting them down, not just coming after us” for minor infractions like missing stickers and dirty plates, Sekhon added.
“He is just letting the city go buck wild, like the wild wild west.”
The formation Sunday night of the new Greater Toronto Area group itself represents a stepping up of cabbies’ organization against Uber, and may let them marshal a bigger fleet of drivers for protests.
“Whenever we have to take any sort of job action, we all stand united,” said Sekhon.
A possible weekend strike may ensnare more than just NBA fans, as the Canadian International Auto Show is being held around the corner from all-star-game venue the Air Canada Centre.
Details on a possible anti-Uber demonstration will be revealed Wednesday, said the iTaxiworkers Association, which represents drivers.
Tory blasted the taxi industry’s sabre-rattling, saying it would do nothing to accelerate forthcoming municipal regulation of the ride-sharing sector dominated by Silicon Valley’s Uber.
Taxis blocking street traffic could find themselves dealing with police, Tory suggested.
“We can’t have the city kind of closed down in that kind of manner, and the law enforcement officials will have to take whatever steps they deem to be appropriate if that sort of thing is engaged in again,” Tory said.
Calls from cabbies and their supporters for an injunction application against Uber were spurned last week when city council voted to delay any legal action.
Ryerson University municipal politics expert Myer Siemiatycki said efforts to bring Uber into the regulatory fold have inched along slowly.
“The city just seems to be dragging its feet in terms of coming up with a solution to this.”
With files from Mark McAllister and David Shum.
© 2016 Shaw Media