After Karygiannis confronts UberX driver, the resident who ordered the ride considering filing complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner.
A Toronto councillor has taken his fight against Uber to the streets by confronting a driver for the app-based car service outside a home in the city’s east-end.
On Friday, Jim Karygiannis (open Jim Karygiannis’s policard), the representative for Scarborough-Agincourt, followed a minivan to a house in his ward and told the driver that using the app to pick up fares was illegal, a hotly debated claim.
According to a letter posted to Karygiannis’ website, the incident started when the councillor was meeting with a group of constituents and the driver pulled up to ask if they had ordered a taxi.
“We indicated that we had not. He then drove down the street, stopping in front of a home further down the street,” the statement says. “I went to speak to the driver and asked him why he was driving for UberX and was he not aware that UberX was an unlicensed operation and that he was breaking Ontario laws and municipal rules and regulations.”
The letter is addressed to Police Chief Mark Saunders and includes a picture Karygiannis snapped of the UberX vehicle. It asks the chief to “uphold the law” against UberX drivers, who Karygiannis accuses of “operating without a legitimate taxi permit.”
UberX is one of several services offered by Uber, and allows passengers to hail regular drivers using a smartphone app, usually at prices much cheaper than a taxi.
Lauren Reyes-Grange, who summoned the UberX driver to pick her up from her parents’ home, said she was surprised when she came out of the house and saw a car parked across the driveway, blocking the UberX vehicle in.
“There was a gentleman outside the car, and he was yelling at the driver,” she said. Reyes-Grange didn’t immediately recognize the man as Karygiannis, but said she realized he was a councillor when she saw a city lanyard around his neck.
She described Karygiannis’ demeanor as “very aggressive, very angry” and said at one point “half of his body was inside of the driver’s window” as he spoke to the man behind the wheel.
She alleges when her father, Hamlin Grange, a former member of the Toronto Police Services Board, told Karygiannis to get off his property, the councillor responded by telling them that Uber drivers do not have insurance to cover their passengers. “‘I’m just trying to protect you and your family from getting charged,’” Reyes-Grange recalled him saying. He then got into his car and drove away. She estimates the encounter lasted five to seven minutes.
Saying she and her family were “shaken” and “annoyed” by the incident, Reyes-Grange told the Star she plans to file a complaint about the councillor with the city integrity commissioner. “That’s not what I expect from somebody that’s in office,” she said. “That was bullying. That was total bullying.”
Karygiannis denies speaking to Reyes-Grange, however. “I was speaking to the driver. They came out, when they came out, I left,” he said in a brief interview. “I did not bully anybody, I did not push anybody around.” He neither confirmed nor denied venturing onto private property to talk to the driver. He then referred the Star to the letter posted to his website, and did not return subsequent messages left on his voicemail.
Uber spokesperson Susie Heath issued a short statement about the incident, saying the company was “very surprised to hear about this unprompted verbal abuse against an Uber driver partner.”
Karygiannis, an outspoken rookie councillor and former longtime Liberal MP, is Uber’s most vocal critic at city hall. Since the UberX service launched in September, he has waged a sustained public relations campaign against the service, arguing that it puts the public at risk because its drivers don’t hold taxi licences and therefore don’t have to meet the insurance requirements and safety checks that cab drivers do.
Uber Canada maintains all of its services are operating legally. A judge who dismissed the city’s attempt to slap an injunction on Uber last month found the corporation had not breached the city’s current bylaws.
Those opposing Uber have said police and bylaw enforcement officers are not properly enforcing city rules or the Highway Traffic Act.
Mayor John Tory (open John Tory’s policard) has called for the city to draft new bylaws that would cover traditional taxis as well as app-based services. He hopes to have new rules in place by the fall.
Source: The Toronto Star