February 14, 2017 11:55 pm
Updated: February 15, 2017 12:24 am

Council pulls a U-turn: Uber not required to install cameras in vehicles

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Uber won’t be following through on a threat to leave the City of London after council passed a by-law change Tuesday night exempting them from installing dashboard security cameras.

Council voted 7-6 in favour of Ward 4 Counc. Jesse Helmer’s proposed amendment, requiring only “street-hailing” vehicles — traditional taxis — have the equipment.

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Two weeks before Tuesday night’s decision, city politicians voted in favour of requiring the ride-sharing company install cameras just as taxis have been required to do since 2010.

The move prompted Uber to issue an ultimatum: if council forced the camera issue, they’d leave the city.

London Taxi Association spokesperson Roger Caranci said the decision came as a bitter disappointment, specifically in regard to Counc. Michael Van Holst.

“I had a discussion with [Van Holst] last week in a Tim Hortons in London, and he was very, very scared of the pressure Uber was putting on him,” Caranci said.

“He bent to what Uber wanted. That’s very troubling to me, that a member of council, a member who duly-elected by representatives of the ward he represents, bows down to a company and does exactly what they want him to do.”

During the Jan. 31 vote, Van Holst was in favour of putting cameras in Uber vehicles.

This week, councillors Bill Armstrong, Mo Salih, Josh Morgan, Paul Hubert, Anna Hopkins and Harold Usher voted against Helmer’s amendment, while all others voted in favour, save for Tanya Park and Jared Zaifman who were absent.

During a debate about the amended by-law, Ward 10 Counc. Virginia Ridley told council cameras likely make for a safer world, but residents want to be able to choose whether they take a cab with a security camera, or an Uber without one.

“They recognize what the risks are, they recognize what the implications are,” she said. “We need to be removing barriers, allowing for innovation… that’s what Londoners want from us.”

Ward 5 Counc. Maureen Cassidy questioned whether cameras really impact consumer safety, and suggested a by-law change that would remove the camera requirement for all vehicles, which she later withdrew.

“Cameras are, as we’ve stated in the past, a false sense of security,” Cassidy explained, citing London Police Chief John Pare’s comments that cameras don’t deter crimes from happening in the first place.

But London Taxi Association President Jason Kukurudziak pointed out cameras have been helpful in the past in the prosecution of crime.

“It’s a great tool, many criminals have been caught with the cameras for bank robberies, home invasions,” he said. “I’m a little bit disappointed that [council] didn’t protect the public like they’re supposed to do. Their job as a councillor is to pass by-laws that protect public safety, and Orest [Katolyk] — the manager of licensing — proved Uber isn’t safe.

“They took bogus rides with made up information multiple times, so it just goes to show that political feelings override consumer safety.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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