Uber Canada looks to ‘correct the record’ as Toronto mulls rideshare licence cap

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A month after Toronto hit the brakes on a controversial rideshare licence cap, Uber Canada is looking to “bust some myths” about the platform and its services before the issue returns to council in March.

In a new ad campaign launching Monday, Uber Canada lays out a number of so-called misconceptions about the brand, including facts about how many drivers are on Toronto roads at any given time, its efforts to fight climate change, and how much drivers actually make.

“We saw a lot of misunderstanding in the fall from city council in the conversations that they were having…We would like to take the opportunity to correct the record and share the facts about how we help support and connect riders, drivers and communities,” Uber Canada spokesperson Keerthana Rang told CTV News Toronto in an interview.

Rang said the ads will be running on social media, at Toronto Bike Share stations, in print, and on TV.

On Dec. 14, Toronto council reversed a decision made in October that temporarily capped the number of rideshare licences at 52,000. The initial move was aimed at reducing pollution and congestion in the core, but triggered a lawsuit by Uber.

The rideshare giant argued in an injunction application with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that the cap was illegal because it failed to provide notice to the public, drivers, and other stakeholders contrary to its own procedural bylaws.

Ads from Uber Canada’s “mythbusting” ad campaign are seen here. (Uber Canada)

As well, Uber said that limiting the number of available licences unlawfully discriminated between prospective and existing drivers. The documents also allege council and the mayor acted in bad faith by concealing plans to introduce the motion and then disguising it as an amendment.

The city’s top lawyer warned council at the time that it could lose the legal fight due to “issues” with how the freeze was enacted and that rescinding the cap would “render Uber’s application moot.”

“Any cap implemented after receiving information from City staff and comments from stakeholders would be more defensible,” a confidential briefing note written by the City Solicitor and obtained by CTV News Toronto reads.

In her motion to rescind the cap, Mayor Olivia Chow also directed the city manager to report back to the executive committee, and then council in March, with new options on limiting licences and including feedback from the public and stakeholders in the industry.

“As directed by Council, City staff are currently working on a report to Executive Committee in February 2024 with options to limit the number of vehicle-for-hire and private transportation company driver licences, including advice on whether it is appropriate to exempt zero emission vehicles,” the city said in a statement to CTV News Toronto.

Uber dropped the injunction against the city following the Dec. 14 council vote.

While the licence cap reversal was welcome news for Uber drivers and customers across the city, Rang said it’s only a “short-term fix.”

“The mayor did signal her intention to bring back a permanent rideshare cap. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of months. But for us, this is an opportunity with this campaign to bust some myths to show our mission and how rideshare is driving positive change in the city of Toronto,” she said.

With files from Natalie Johnson and Bryann Aguilar

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