Kingston’s Uber bylaw suspended after legal review

The Kingston Area Taxi Commission has revoked its bylaw aimed at ride-sharing companies after finding out that they don't have legal authority over companies like Uber and Lyft. File Photo / Global News

The bylaw meant to regulate ride-sharing business like Uber in Kingston is on a permanent hold, according to the Kingston Area Taxi Commission.

The commission met Wednesday evening to discuss bylaw 4, which was passed in June and should have taken effect on Sept. 15. After an emergency meeting called by the commission last week, the bylaw was temporarily suspended for legal review.

READ MORE: Kingston taxi commission passes bylaw to limit Uber, Lyft

Rod Moffat, the chair of the commission, said from that review they learned that under Canadian law, the commission has purview over all taxi brokers, but not over ride-sharing companies.

“In 2015, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that Uber is not a [taxi] broker.”

Bylaw 4 was supposed to impose regulations on ride-sharing companies much like they would on taxi services, requiring drivers to register licences with the commission, as well as asking companies like Uber to pay thousands of dollars to operate in Kingston. For now, these stipulations won’t be met, and Uber will continue operating in Kingston as it always has.

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It’s upsetting for taxi drivers like Roy Ambury, who was present at Wednesday’s meeting. He’s been driving cabs on Kingston roads for the last 40 years and says with rising costs, Uber is affecting his business.

“It’s disappointing,” said Ambury. “That means we have to work longer hours, more days, just to make a basic living.”

WATCH: Taxi driver in Kingston upset after regulating bylaw was put on hold

Click to play video: 'Taxi driver in Kingston upset after regulating bylaw was put on hold' Taxi driver in Kingston upset after regulating bylaw was put on hold
Taxi driver in Kingston upset after regulating bylaw was put on hold – Sep 18, 2018

But for Uber drivers like Vic Guilherme — who had worried the fees imposed on Uber would have driven the company out of Kingston — it’s the news he had been hoping for.

“The fees and everything compared to taxi bylaw, and the fees that they pay — I don’t think it was fair at all.”

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James Litchfield, another Kingston Uber driver, recently registered a complaint to the Canadian Competition Bureau, claiming bylaw 4 was unfair to ride-sharing businesses in Kingston.

He originally thought the bylaw had been put on hold due to his complaint, but Moffat says the Competition Bureau had nothing to do with the bylaw’s undoing.

Despite the setback, Moffat says the commission is still committed to their original goal.

READ MORE: Uber faces Saturday deadline to stay in Kingston

“Now we have to determine what our options are to regulate Uber under bylaw 4.”

The commission also passed a motion to increase the taxi rate by approximately 19 per cent. This would be the first rate jump for taxi drivers in Kingston in 10 years, which was seen as a small win for drivers.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that something is going to happen that is good,” said Ambury.

— With files from Alexandra Mazur

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