Toronto’s taxi protest won’t happen this weekend after all, organizer Paul Sekhon confirmed Wednesday afternoon, following a meeting with members of city council and businesses.
“The strike has been put off, no strike during NBA weekend,” said Sekhon, head of the newly-formed United Taxi Workers Association of the GTA.
“We never had any intention of hijacking the City of Toronto for this NBA All-Star event. We were misled and everybody was hurt, the emotions overran us and we didn’t know what else to do.”
Previously, Sekhon had vowed that Toronto’s taxi drivers would protest Friday around NBA All-Star festivities happening this weekend at the Air Canada Centre. The plan was for taxi drivers to slow or stop traffic down Highway 427 to the Gardiner Expressway, then down the Bay and York ramps onto Lake Shore Boulevard and around the Air Canada Centre.
Taxi drivers planned the protest to draw attention to the growing rift between UberX and licensed taxis in Toronto. The protest was expected to spill over the Family Day weekend as well.
“We understand that doing a strike like this would cause a big mess for the Toronto businesses and a big inconvenience for the public,” said Sekhon. “And we can’t let them be surcharged by UberX as well. It is out duty as the taxi cab industry to make sure they get charged fairly to go back and forth from the events and the venues.”
“We heard the public, they did not want this inconvenience,” one representative of the taxi industry said.
However, taxi reps say they have not closed the door to the possibility of future protests.
“We want UberX to be banned in the City of Toronto, we want UberX to be shut down,” Sekhon said Wednesday morning. “There should be no UberX illegal services at all.”
So who exactly is Paul Sekhon? CityNews reporter Cynthia Mulligan sat down with the head of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association of the GTA.
Who are you? Where did you come from?
“My name is Paul Sekhon, I’m a shift driver that turned into a cab owner. And then a general manager at City Taxi. My family business is City Taxi and the family owns licence plates.”
Many are describing you as a hothead and somebody who is perhaps taking a vendetta against the mayor. Are you plotting this rationally or is it an emotional battle for you?
“I try to work the legal, Canadian way and it’s not working right now. Protest is not going to gain any business for the taxi industry but the public might not like us for a couple of days but we have to express our feelings about how the mayor is corrupting the taxi industry.”
Aren’t you turning off the very people that are the cab drivers’ salvation?
“No, I’m not. I believe we got to make our point and we got to stand firm on our ground and tell them that this is time to make it to international media what we really think about this mayor.”
(Mayor John Tory) exchanged some words this morning about how unhappy he was about your behaviour in chambers last week. You were swearing and had to be escorted out. Do you regret those actions? Do you think you took it too far?
“Not at all, I was actually 100 per cent. I was, that was my opinion and the way I express myself because I was sitting patiently, patiently day after day at City Hall. Nothing got done. And hopefully these messages are getting out to the Torontonians about what we think is legal taxi industry and the illegals are just killing us right now. And John Tory is letting this happen.”
Are you going to be actively discouraging any violence or bad behaviour by cab drivers?
“We’re going to see whatever happens.”