Uber did almost double the lobbying of the taxi industry to win key council vote

Every attempted contact made to city officials – whether by phone or email – must be registered according to city of Toronto lobbying rules. Data from the city reveals staff at ride-sharing company Uber, and those hired to push their agenda, made 2,058 attempts between January 2015 and April 20, 2016 – nearly double the number made by the taxi industry and its supporters.

Within the 15 months leading up to the key council decision that largely swung in Uber’s favour, there was a sharp spike in the number of attempted contacts on September 29. These were mostly emails Joshua Wozenilek, CEO of Dijoto Inc., sent councilors and staff. His company provides driver cashiering and client invoicing software for traditional taxi companies.

“Our recent lobbying efforts were focused on educating city councillors that UberX provides the same service as taxi companies and that they follow the same fundamental business model,” said Wozenilek.

We sought to ensure that they were not fooled by Uber’s politically misleading terms, such as ‘ridesharing,’ which actually means ‘car pooling.’

Uber Toronto’s General Manager Ian Black was by far the most prolific lobbyist in this highly politicized, acrimonious debate. He made at least 1,731 attempts to reach city staff and councillors through various means — more than the total number of attempts made by all taxi industry lobbyists and supporters combined. The company also relied on four lobbyists from StrategyCorp Inc.: Stephen Adler, Emily Naddaf and principals John Duffy and John Matheson.

Amarjeet Chhabra, Executive Director of the iTaxiworkers Association, was the most aggressive lobbyist for the taxi industry. He reached out to city staff or met elected officials 268 times. Government relations/PR firms Sussex Strategy Group and Navigator Inc. also worked to sway votes in the industry’s favour.

As for the targets of Uber’s aggressive lobbying, a key member of mayor John Tory’s staff, Luke Robertson, was the focus of their attention. Tory’s Senior Advisor of Council and Stakeholder Relations was approached 70 times. Municipal Licensing and Standards Executive Director Tracey Cook and downtown councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam were the next most lobbied individuals at City Hall.

The taxi industry focused their efforts on councillors Jim Karygiannis, Janet Davis and Giorgio Mammoliti. All three were vocal supporters of leveling the playing field to ensure taxi drivers could maintain their livelihoods in this new disrupted reality of ride-sharing.

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