Ontario is playing host to one of North America’s premier sporting events when Toronto’s Air Canada Centre houses the NBA All Star weekend from February 12 to 14. It is a huge event of course, and the first time in history that the showpiece game has been played outside the United States. The weekend long event, culminating in the NBA All-Star game next Sunday, could also descend into chaos if taxi drivers carry out plans to protest in Toronto over the weekend.
Associations representing taxi drivers in the city say they will stage a weekend long protest in opposition to the city’s stance on ride-sharing company Uber. Toronto voted last year to regulate Uber, while recently the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) greenlit Aviva Canada’s auto insurance policy that caters to ride-sharing drivers.
These moves mean Uber is on course to be legalized in Ontario, and while that eventuality is still some way off, taxi drivers are voicing their opposition now, hoping to reverse Uber’s expansion in Toronto and beyond. Causing traffic issues during a visiting high profile sporting event could prove to be enough to make authorities worry, and Mayor John Tory urged taxi drivers to reconsider on Monday:
“It doesn’t enhance the reputation of the taxi industry or their cause,” Tory said of a protest. “I really, really hope” the industry sees the city is moving as fast as it can.
Of course, public transport would still function, but a taxi protest has the potential to bring streets to a standstill as drivers fill the roads with their stationary vehicles. That happened in December in a first protest that brought Downtown Toronto to a halt, and organizers are saying this second protest will be even bigger and more disruptive:
“We are going for a heavy duty strike much bigger than December 9th,” said Paul Sekhon, head of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association of the GTA.
Tory said the All-Star weekend will bring between $85 million and $100 million to the city, if previous host locations are to be judged as a gauge of the economic power of NBA’s glossy game. He suggested that while he has not spoken to law enforcement leaders that he expects the police “will have to take whatever steps necessary” to ensure the weekend runs smoothly.