The Ottawa Chamber has been an active stakeholder in the economic development of our community for close to 160 years. We take our role as the Advocate, the Connector and the Voice for Business — very seriously. The Ottawa Chamber mandate is to work with our Members and the Ottawa business community to identify those priorities that will lead to economic growth and expansion, while working cooperatively with interested stakeholders, including government to implement those priorities.
With a member focussed mandate, the Ottawa Chamber looked at the issue of vehicles for hire closely. We are proud to include Coventry Connections as a long standing member of the Ottawa Chamber. We have had the opportunity to work with their principals and recognize their long standing contributions to the business community in Ottawa, as well as the tourism sector. We were able to host its President & CEO, Mr. Hanif Patni for an important dialogue with the Ottawa business community last month. We also welcome Uber Canada as new members of the Ottawa Chamber and hope that they will strive to contribute to our organization, the Ottawa business landscape and our local community.
In terms of the Ottawa Chamber’s strategic approach, the issue of vehicles for hire directly impacts our focus on the reduction in the cumulative regulatory burden faced by business in Ottawa, in Ontario and in Canada. In 2013, the Ottawa Chamber successfully passed a resolution at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting – to crack down on the underground economy – which makes it difficult for legitimate businesses to compete. At that time we called for tougher penalties for non-compliance and a stronger focus on high-risk industries. Specifically, we identified the vehicle for hire industry as a notable example, where many legitimate taxi operations were suffering as a result of unlicensed “Bandit Cabs”.
Today, we are calling on the City and other orders of Government to ensure that equity is at the heart of any new vehicle for hire framework in Ottawa!
Ottawa Chamber members and companies in the local business community have identified ride-sharing and vehicles for hire as a priority issue for advocacy by the Ottawa Chamber, with 64% of respondents in our fall 2015 Ottawa Business Growth Survey following the issue closely. Specifically, 58% of businesses stated that companies such as “Uber should be allowed to operate in Ottawa, but new rules need to be introduced that create a level playing field between ride sharing applications like Uber and taxi companies”.
Proposals that have been put forward for today’s discussion may include elements that lead to a two-tier system that may not support the development of an integrated, well positioned framework for a vehicle for hire system. One that meets the needs of the business community, our important tourism sector and our local residents.
Just look at the inequity inherent in mandating security cameras for one class of vehicle for hire, yet not for another. Licence fee’s, insurance coverage and driver education could be put in a similar category.
I mentioned the importance of our tourism sector, and you’ll hear from the experts at Ottawa Tourism – but the Ottawa Chamber would hope that the vehicle for hire sector would follow that of the beverage alcohol, amateur sports sectors and others – that have clearly demonstrated that education is critical. They have pioneered online education that could be adopted by the vehicle for hire sector. In short, we do not believe that tourism education and customer service training should be optional. But, we are clearly not supporting a rigid curriculum and format that disadvantages one sector over the other.
I would like to revisit the issue of the possibility of unintended consequences in terms of tax compliance. While this may be the constitutional responsibility of another order of government, the Ottawa business community strongly supports a system that reduces the regulatory, paper and red tape burden put on business – but also supports a system that doesn’t allow one class of business organization to benefit over another in terms of compliance.
The recent 2016 Ontario and 2016 Federal Budgets are clear on the need for tax fairness and reduction of the underground economy.
In conclusion, the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, representing its membership, supports the move to a renewed regulatory and business framework for the vehicle for hire sector – that is based on equity – with a commensurate reduction in the cumulative regulatory burden faced by business and with a targeted approach to reducing the underground economy.
We strongly support cooperative efforts to work towards building the most innovative city and prosperous community in Canada.
Thank you for allowing us to present this afternoon
President and CEO
Ottawa Chamber of Commerce
Given on April 7, 2016 before before the City of Ottawa Community and Protective Services Committee