Monthly Archives: June 2017

Rule of Law gets a Kick in the Teeth

Honest, decent, hard-working, law-abiding members of the taxi industry slept outside of City Hall on a hunger strike in November, 2015. All calls to ask Toronto to maintain one consistent law for all vehicles for hire – Taxis, Uber, Lyft, whoever – fell upon deaf ears. Faith in Canada’s Rule of Law has been decimated for these guys.

On November 19, 2014, John Tory stated confidently, “Uber and Hailo are here to stay.”

Ironically, ride-hailing firm Hailo had left Toronto weeks earlier. A law-abiding entity, it could not compete, waved a white flag, and left. Tory was unaware of this fact.

Uber has been a different story. Toronto allowed it to break any by-law it chose for almost three years, giving Uber an unprecedented business advantage.

Alas, Uber has not lived up to John Tory’s expectations. In fact, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was forced by investors to step down after a horrendous six-month run of disasters. Female engineers at Uber reported on sexual harassment and discrimination; regulators discovered Uber is using “Greyball,” software designed the help it avoid the law; Uber is being sued by Google for allegedly stealing its self-driving car technology. Uber is overcharging passengers and underpaying drivers.

Uber’s gleeful lawlessness is proving to be its Achilles heel. This was obvious to anyone with common sense while Toronto was re-writing its vehicle for hire by-law for Uber last year and SHOULD have been immediately apparent to the politicians we pay to make our laws. It was not.

On June 21, in an article entitled “Uber can’t be fixed; it’s time for regulators to shut it down,” Benjamin Edelman wrote in the Harvard Business Review: “The company’s cultural dysfunction, it seems to me, stems from the very nature of the company’s competitive advantage: Uber’s business model is predicated on lawbreaking. And having grown through intentional illegality, Uber can’t easily pivot toward following the rules.”

“Having built a corporate culture that celebrates breaking the law, it is surely no accident that Uber then faced scandal after scandal. How is an Uber manager to know which laws should be followed and which ignored?” Edelman asks.

In Toronto, the cost of the short-sighted decision to reward law-breakers has been brutal: it has caused a true crisis of faith for immigrants who came here honestly and work tirelessly. I doubt the damage done to their concept of Canada’s Rule of Law will ever be undone.

“I left home to get AWAY from this kind of corruption!” I have heard from cabbies from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Egypt. “And here it is again!”

Hans Wienhold, a taxi driver and blogger puts it this way: “Given that the taxi industry is disproportionately populated by recent immigrants…what message does this send to the new waves of immigrants and refugees looking to build a secure life for themselves?

“I’ll tell you what message it sends… ‘Do not work hard and invest your life and savings for the long term, because you now live in a regime where everything can be taken away from you by a simple vote at a city hall.’”

Wienhold also made a sad observation on the fact that all of the most expensive elements of a secure taxi industry were never about safety at all.

“Now we see clearly that none of these things ever had anything to do with safety; they were just power grabs and cash grabs. No one will ever buy the politicians’ BS again.”

Recently, we have seen more drivers ignoring the law, refusing short fares, or requiring a minimum fare; basically rejecting the City’s authority to set fares and rules.

Because, what law?

John Tory and Toronto Council should have seen this coming. They did not.

As this week’s Time Magazine cover says, “Uber fail.”


Cream of Asparagus Soup starring Ontario Asparagus

This cooking video is actually at least a four-in-one deal:

  1. How to make luscious, delicious Cream of Asparagus soup using fresh Ontario Asparagus.
  2. How to make a smooth, buttery roux to thicken your soup (a good skill to have for any number of recipes).
  3. How to avoid painful burns – skip the standard blender and use a stick blender!
  4. How to enjoy creamy soups in the middle of winter, that taste like you made them today.

Click here to view the video. 

Made and posted with love, by Rita Smith

A real dog-and-pony show…

Carefully organized perennial beds, fences with wide gaps, horses and….Leia. What could go wrong?

Forest, Leia and I set out for a perennials farm yesterday to load up on new plants.

The place is lovely, and the owners so nice. Clearly, they are city-folk living a Green Acres retirement as the quaint wooden sign on their front lawn reads, “Living the Dream!”

“You can let your dogs out, if you want,” the fellow told me brightly.

“Really? Are you sure?” I looked around at the neat perennials beds and potted plants. “I wouldn’t want them to upset anything.”

“Sure! No problem! As long as they are friendly, we welcome dogs!” he offered magnanimously.

“REALLY? Are you REALLY sure?” I asked again, dubiously.

I didn’t see any good coming out of this. But the man and his wife were so generous and welcoming, I ignored my better judgement and let the dogs out of the car.

Immediately, they bolted for the fence line where there stood – two large red horses.

“Oh, except we hope they won’t bother the horses,” he added, a little anxiously and a lot too late. Leia had already bound through the wide gaps in the wooden fence and she and Forest were both barking their fool heads off at these huge new “dogs.”

“FOREST! LEIA! COME HERE!” I bellowed in my loudest dog-calling voice. Amazingly, Forest stopped before he reached the fence and came back. Leia was long gone.

“I’m just afraid the horse might kick them,” the man offered helpfully.

“Yeah, that would be a real problem,” I replied morosely, already imagining how much THIS vet bill was going to be, after Leia got sent sailing through the air by one swift kick.

I deposited Forest back in the safety of the car before I returned to the fence line to try and retrieve Leia.

After their exciting equine adventure, Forest and Leia were deposited back into the safety of car.

Leia was in her glory, joyfully cavorting and gamboling directly under the horse’s feet. In fact, she was running perfect “Figure 8s:” around the front hooves; under the horse’s belly; behind the back hooves; under the belly again; another lap around the front feet. Every time she circled the horse’s back feet, I held my breath, waiting for the kick to come.

None came.

“That is one patient horse you have there,” I told the ‘farmer.’

“Oh, she’s not mine, this is my neighbour’s field,” he informed me cheerfully. Oh, lord, I groaned. Vet bills AND lawsuits!

Meanwhile, his wife came running over with a bag of dog treats, shaking it noisily and calling “Here! Treats! Here!” Clearly, this had happened before.

“LEEEEE-IIII-AAAAA, HEEEEEEERE!” I called in the trail walking command we have been practicing since February. She actually heard my voice over her own excited barking, turned and trotted over to me. Miracles happen!

“I’ll just put her in the car before I pick out my plants,” I panted, hauling Leia by the collar in the direction of the car. Both horses ambled back home to the far side of the field; perhaps they’d had enough excitement for one morning.

The rest of my shopping was uneventful and I picked out a trunk load of beautiful perennials for my garden. As I loaded them in the car, a woman pulled up with a German Shepard in her car.

“Is it OK if I bring my dog with me?” she called to the owner. “I have his leash, and poo bags!”

“Sure!!” the ‘farmer’ responded enthusiastically. “No problem!”

As I pulled away, I remembered I had planned to look at tomato plants. I decided those could wait. Like the big red horses, I figured I’d had enough for one day…