Toronto Taxi Regulation Changes – what happened?

There has been debate, some of it quite acrimonious, about taxis in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

A crude history might sound like this: First, there were taxi licenses. Licenses could be owned by non-drivers. Eventually a large fraction of all licenses were owned by companies that used real drivers to actually do the taxi work. These drivers were essentially renters of a license. Under this scheme a taxi license allowed the owner to run the vehicles 7/24, and not drive any of them.These licenses can be sold, and are (or were) worth over $300,000.00 CAD.

Then, due to complaints, a new license type was added to the mix. Called an Ambassador license, this allowed a driver to drive a vehicle. No second shift. No replacement during illness or vacation. This license could not be sold or inherited, as I recall.

At this point, very few taxis were wheelchair-enabled.

When the debate started, there were many proposals. It looked like the answer was going to be, some number (less than 300 if I recall correctly) of new licenses would be issued that were strictly for accessible vehicles. (Accessible in Canada means, roughly, wheelchair-accessible.)

Then, the actual new laws were unveiled. The changes are sweeping, and in some cases, unreasonable.

All vehicles must be ‘accessible’ within ten years. This despite the fact that few riders need such accessibility, and the cost to each owner is considerable.

All vehicles must be driven some number of hours by its owner, every month. My recall is that this number was over 160 hours, which means four forty-hour weeks. If this large number is correct, the vacation and illness question remains. It does allow the owner-operator to have second (and third) drivers.

This means that fleet ownership will end by 2024. How existing owners of large numbers of now-salable licenses will be compensated (for their loss in value) remains to be seen. Expect unpleasant developments in this area.

This means that all vehicles must support wheelchair access. Expect interesting lobbying on this point for the next ten years.

Now for the dumb question. All of this will be in effect in ten years, not today. Do many of us really believe that the lobbying between now and then won’t change much of this? It is a dumb question, eh?

What’s Special about Switzerland?

Almost everything about Switzerland is exceptional.

Apparently 100,000 signatures on a petition gets the question into a national referendum. Unlike California, these petitions don’t seem to be pushing the state into anything resembling bankruptcy.

The Swiss unemployment rate is stable at about 3.2 %. You can get variations on this number, but this one is found here.

At the same time, Switzerland decided to limit immigration. This referendum passed narrowly, and has implications for Swiss relations with Europe. While independent, Switzerland has to some extent followed EU practices; now some treaties may be invalidated. You can find this here.

Finally, Switzerland is considering a guaranteed annual income, for everybody. It would be just enough to live on. Given the temptation to move to such a country, the previous referendum’s results make sense. Given prosperity and low unemployment, a guaranteed income also makes sense, if you do it carefully.

While this referendum did not pass, it does ask an interesting question.

What would happen if all income were taxed at a flat rate, no deductions? What would happen if all financial support systems were replaced by a guaranteed income? I first heard this scheme from Richard Ketchum, a long-deceased but still (for all his students) an influential teacher of creative writing. His idea was, everyone would have just enough to live in a garret and eat. No clawback when one works. All earned income taxed from the first penny. No special tricks for capital gains or film companies.

I wonder if Switzerland could pull something like this off. Is that such a dumb question?



Gulf Oil Spill, Anthony Badalamenti

You will remember this spill which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Several people died. You might wonder what happened to those implicated in the failure of the cementing and the blowout preventer.

Here’s an update. There was a post-spill review of the cementing. That data was deleted by our current Person of Interest. His sentence: One year probation, $1,000.00 USD fine, and a hundred hours of community service. This for, in effect, destroying evidence – apparently, the winning strategy if you’re going to face a US Court.

As for Halliburton, I quote: “The company agreed to pay a $200,000 fine and make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, but the latter payment wasn’t a condition of the deal.” In short, they got off with a fine.

Now for the dumb question: what message does this send? If the evidence is bad, should you destroy it? It is a dumb question, eh?