I want to start by thanking all of the people who have taken the time to contact me and offer their support. I try to personally respond to every single message I receive, however, there are just so many. If I did not get back to you, please know that I saw your message, and I appreciate your support.
Mostly, I appreciate that the community is condemning these actions and saying clearly that it is not acceptable. If you have any information, I encourage you to contact the police or crime stoppers.
Integrity is one of my core values. I believe in doing the right thing.
What's this all about
I have taken a fairly strong stance on the vehicle for hire bylaw. I have consulted with many people in our community. I have heard from customers, drivers, owners, brokers, city staff and more. I have spent a great deal of time researching and understanding the issue.
There are divergent opinions, and not a clear consensus on the issue.
To bring you up to speed the city limits the number of taxi plates that are available to 1:1100 residents (as per the census population). We do not limit limo or transportation network companies (uber, lyft etc).
I have been supporting the eventual removal of the cap, and have offered an approach that would see the ratios decline over time. In April I stated at a public meeting that we should look at going from 1:1100 to 1:1050. There are many reasons I believe we should change this - in brief under the current system drivers who wish to drive a taxi but do not have their own plate, lease a plate from a plate owner. They pay a weekly lease fee to the owner for the ability to drive a cab. Many owners are also drivers, but not all are - some just lease their plates and collect the lease fees. There are many drivers who wish to have their own plate and not to pay the lease fee to a driver. Plate owners pay the city a $750 fee annually for the plate. Those who lease plates pay different amounts, but typically reported at $450/ week. There are different structures as to who owns the vehicle and pays the insurance, but most commonly it is reported to me that it is the individual who leases the plate, who also pays the vehicle, insurance, maintenance and broker concessions (a fee for working for a specific company). Drivers who do not own their plates pay out a lot of money, just to be able to work. There is a lot more information here, but that's the Coles notes version.
After that meeting I received a letter at both my home address and at city hall that very clearly and explicitly indicated that I should not do that, and if I do that I would be shot, and that the shooter would then turn the gun on themselves. I was warned not to contact the police.
I did contact the police, and they are actively investigating. I have no doubt that they will find the person who sent this letter.
The letter is published in several of the links below.
A few answers
In May when this first happened, I was hopeful that legal justice would happen swiftly. I met with a Free Press Reporter and talked to her off the record because I wanted someone to have the story in the case that anything should happen to me. That was the only reason she had permission to use the information. I trusted her to hold this information, but I did want someone to have the information, just in case. We were then in the nomination period, and I did not want this story to dissuade anyone (especially women) from running for office. This experience was not typical or normal, and I did not want to be the reason why someone did not run.
After we got through the nomination period, we were a few weeks away from the Public Participation Meeting. In considering this, I again did not want my experience to skew the public meeting, and so after the meeting on Tuesday, I spoke with the reporter again - this time on the record - and gave my consent to tell my story. I always knew it had to be told, and that it was important that it was in the public realm. I have never been good about holding back any information, and whenever possible (not bound by the rules of confidentiality) I have been transparent and open about all things - including my job, and my experiences as a Councillor.
Has this changed your opinion?
No. Neither the threat nor the story/public reaction has changed my opinion on the bylaw amendments. I have been looking at this issue very carefully for a few years, and I have always known that a change needed to happen. My job on council is to make decisions based on the wider community's best interest. I have long questioned what the municipal purpose is to capping the number of plates. In my opinion there is no municipal purpose in doing this. We regulate the vehicles and drivers for safety, but I believe that we need to remove the other regulations that are not there for the community's protection. It is not the job of council to protect an industry, or certain individuals.
How will this affect competition?
We are recommending other changes which will allow the industry to innovate and compete. Where we previously regulated the fares, it has been my opinion that the companies should be able to set their own fares, provided that they are posted, clear and transparent. If a company is able to have that flexibility, they may charge a different price but offer a different service. Perhaps when you order a cab - you fare will include a customer profile where you are brought a cup of coffee of the morning paper too. Other industries are regulated but are able to compete by offering different services (think of pizza places, restaurants, hair salons). We regulate them for consumer protection (safe food handling etc) but do not limit the number or the services that they offer.
How did you feel?
The threat scared me. I think anyone who received a threat like that would have been scared. My 9 year old son got the mail and handed it to me. I was standing in front of my children skimming bills when I read the words.
It disappointed me. I was disappointed that anyone would feel the need to go to that extreme. That they did not feel comfortable to call me and to talk about it. To take the opportunity to learn my concerns, and to try to come to a middle ground. That they did not think I would listen to them in a reasonable conversation. (Side note - I have met with many people who are plate owners and who represent the industry, and I have asked them all the same question - if 1:1050 is not a reasonable number, than give me a reasonable number to make progress here and I will agree to that. Their answer is the same each time that there are already too many, that we are allowing the plates to be devalued, and have a responsibility to not allow them to be devalued further). No one has yet to let me know why it is the city's responsibility (municipal purpose) in keeping it the same.
I was angry. I never thought I would have to deal with something like this. I give my all to this role. I start work first thing in the morning, and don't stop until bedtime. I am often still responding to emails from bed long after my house is quiet. I ran for city council because I wanted to help my community and to make our city a better place. I was never under any illusion that I would be perfect or that people would agree with everything I do - but I do my best. I learn the issues and I am thoughtful in my decision making. I engage the community in every way possible (monthly newsletters, quarterly meetings, social media, phone, email, a mid term review and more).
Tomorrow the recommendations of the committee after last weeks PPM go to council. I will try to once again make progress on the cap and releasing more plates. Should that fail, the recommendation of the committee is for a referral back for more consultation with the industry.
I believe that we need to make a few changes:
1) change the cap ratio to make more plates available
2) create flexibility in the industry so that companies can be more competitive and offer differing services
3) increase the number of accessible plates available
4) find a way to support those that are making accessible services available
5) remove the city regulation on cameras - instead allow drivers/brokers the autonomy of installing and reviewing cameras provided that the public clearly knows if there is a camera recording
6) remove some of the administrative burden
These are the issues I will be pushing for at council tomorrow.
Some Media Links: