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.

How much money did your city councillors spend in 2015?

In 2015 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam spent $30,456 from her constituency services and office budget, the most among all 44 councillors at City Hall. The vast majority of that ($19,222) paid for communication initiatives and activities in her busy downtown ward, Toronto Centre Rosedale.
The left-leaning councillor represents one of the most commercially dense and active regions of the city, with an extremely young population. Stats Canada data reveals the majority of her constituents are between 25 and 34.

On average councillors spent $19,871 from their constituency services and office budgets. Money here is used to pay for office expenses and ward activities. Stephen Holyday (Etobicoke Centre) was the most frugal in these two areas. In 2015 he used only $1,047 – a fraction of what nearly all other elected officials at City Hall spent that year.

Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Beaches – East York) spent $25,866 with $17,856 of that filed under “Constituency and Business Meetings”. The city of Toronto provides a detailed breakdown of how councillors spend in this category, including scans of invoices. Records show McMahon used much of her funds here hosting summer movie nights in her ward, each costing around $2,000.

Summer Movie Nights

But office and constituency expenses represent only a small fraction of the pie when it comes to total spending. The entire budget for all 44 councillors is $20.9 million. “Some get a little more of the budget depending on the size of their ward,” said Jackie DeSouza, the city’s Director of Strategic Communications.

Each councillor received around $475,000 in total spending. Last year none of them reached that figure however some came close. In 2015 Councillor John Filion (Willowdale) was the most generous with his budget at $459,014. That amount – as with all councillors – represents salaries and benefits for him and his support staff along with all expenses tied to ward and committee business.

On average councillors spent $381,861 in 2015 with most of it going to pay support staff. Their own salaries are set at around $135,000 per year.

But the mayor’s budget eclipsed all others within council. In 2015 he spent $1,971,807 from a total allowable of $2.3 million. This was more than quadruple the council average. Salaries for his support staff are his biggest expenditure: 83%. He spent 7 times more here ($1,637,016) than the council average ($208,982).

This is why Toronto has never hosted the Olympics

Montreal and Vancouver have done it, why haven’t we? The question creeps up when talking about Canadian cities that have hosted the world during an Olympic Games. Toronto, Canada’s largest city and centre of commerce and culture, has yet to share in that experience. We tried in 2008 but lost out to Beijing.

Last fall mayor John Tory assembled an advisory panel to look into the possibility of hosting a major international event and asked members Gord Nixon, former CEO of RBC; Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of CivicAction; and Saäd Rafi, former head of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, to create a short-list of events the city could bid on in the decade. The report, Bringing The World to Toronto, found several systemic flaws and cracks spread throughout Toronto’s bidding process that have prevented the city from enjoying a major event on scale of the Olympics, World Expo or FIFA World Cup.

Advisory Panel Report

The main issue appears to be Toronto’s lacks of a formal, official process for bidding on major international events. Too often the attempt is ad hoc and reactionary in response to an opportunity that arises – one which other cities have likely been preparing for for years.

“Because these events arise only periodically (and often unpredictably) there has not been much reason to develop a consistent, methodical approach to evaluation or planning that carries forward from one event to the next,” read the report. “As a result, major event planning has often been undertaken with a significant degree of uncertainty, a lack of sufficient early coordina­tion and limited resolve from all partners.” In other words, the city has been caught off guard and unprepared.

Our report will help the city and its partners to ad­dress these challenges and, hopefully, ‘profes­sionalize the process’.

The report reveals the city has had to “start from square one” every time an opportunity to bid on a major event arose because it lacked the formal processes and coordination to jump on an opportunity and “hit the ground running” during the competitive process.

“A significant amount of time (and resources) is expended just to get started on planning and evaluation,” read the report. “In our view, it is important that major event hosting has a natural home at the city and is supported by reliable financial resources.” The panel recommends resources be dedicated for the planning and evaluation of hosting opportunities – this could come in the form of designated staff or a separate department singularly focused on exploring and preparing for hosting opportunities, even when none exist in the immediate future. The point is to be ready when they do.

Another problem the report underscores is a lack of regional partnerships, an important element that adds a measure of security and stability within the bidding process.

In service of that goal, the advisory panel recommends the city work with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport; the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation; Tourism Toronto and the surrounding regional tourism organizations to form a partnership “that leverages the existing capacity of these organizations.”

Toronto cannot be alone in this undertaking.

Bringing The World to Toronto reveals that Canada’s largest city missed the opportunity to do so in 2015 with the World Expo, which was eventually awarded to Milan, because it lacked the necessary commitment from a government partner.

Both a well-funded bidding mechanism with pre-existing processes that can quickly be executed, and multi-region, multi-governmental support are identified as key components necessary for generating and sustaining public support – the other key ingredient in a successful bid.

It’s not surprising then that, as we’ve seen with some unsuccessful or unrealized bids in the past, they failed to capture full public support (as in the case of the 2008 Olympic bid).

The report illustrates the anatomy of success by using Vancouver, awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics, as an example. The initial idea to host the Games came in the late 1990s with the formation of the Vancouver Whistler 2010 Bid Society.

The organization enjoyed initial support from Tourism Vancouver, Tourism Whistler and Sport BC. In 1999 a new non-profit Bid Corporation was formed with financial backing from the Canadian Olympic Committee, province of British Columbia, the city of Vancouver and municipality of Whistler.

In early 2000, ten years before the actual Games, the Corporation began signing corporate sponsors. In 2002 the city signed an agreement with the federal government that committed $9.1 million in funding.

In 2003 the IOC Evaluation Committee visited Vancouver and in their report “highlighted the ‘high quality’ and active participation of key government officials and organizations that will be involved in staging the Games.” In July 2003 the city won the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Although Toronto has decided against bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics, the 2025 World Expo is still on the table. Mayor Tory and city councillors met with representatives from the Bureau International des Expositions in January to discuss the possibility.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is a strong supporter of hosting the event and indicates as much on her Twitter bio with the hasthag #Expo2025.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 8.24.54 PM

The 30-page document singles out three “mega-events” whose reach and impact remain unrivalled on the international stage in terms of marketing and prestige: the Olympics, World Expo, and FIFA World Cup.

Montreal hosted a World Expo in 1967; Vancouver, an International Expo in 1986. The most recent Expo in Milan drew roughly 22 million visitors over six months. Shanghai holds the attendance record with a whopping 70 million visitors in 2010.

The report authors recommend against bidding for the FIFA World Cup until recent controversies and restructuring related to FIFA, the governing body of soccer, settle.
In addition to these “mega events”, the report defines what it calls “global community events” that although not nearly as large in scale and profile can command a considerable amount of international exposure and marketing reward. These events typically are home in the cultural or trade sectors and Toronto has already hosted many of them, including the 2014 WorldPride festival and International Indian Film Academy Awards (2011).
The panel’s short-list includes the following::
Arts & Culture
  • Art Basel Exhibition
  • STEAM Carnival
  • Operalia Competition
  • TEDGlobal Conference
  • Parliament of the World’s Religions

Trade & Innovation

  • Institute of International Finance (IIF) Events
  • Financial Times Events
  • The Economist Events
  • World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference
  • World Bank Group Annual Meetings
  • RiskMinds Conference
  • Mobile World Congress
  • Trustech Annual Conference
  • ASIS International
  • Retail Banker International Conference

In the end, there is general consensus that events of both types drive economic growth and raise a city’s profile on the international stage. In Vancouver, the Winter Olympics generated between 38,530 and 51,510 jobs according to one estimate. In London, it’s believed the 2012 Summer Olympics will have added 618,000 to 893,000 years of employment to the regional economy by 2020.

“But planning and hosting major events also involves substantial public costs, significant financial and operational risks and potentially difficult trade-offs for host cities and regions,” according to the report.

Being prepared, which Toronto currently seems not to be, will be key in ensuring the benefits outweigh the cost.