What is the definition of a taxi ride?
A version of this question recently arrived at the Ontario Court of Justice in Oshawa (City) v Greaves.
An Oshawa by-law makes it illegal to operate a taxicab without a valid license. Last year, as part of a project concerning unlicensed taxicabs, a municipal by-law officer ordered an Uber in Oshawa. When the Uber arrived at the requested location, the driver found himself collecting a by-law infraction charge instead of a waiting passenger. On appeal before the Ontario Court of Justice, counsel for the driver argued that the driver did not illegally operate a taxicab because no taxi ride occurred.
Nonetheless, the Court upheld the by-law charge. The Court relied on the standard approach to statutory interpretation, which reads a statute by its “grammatical and ordinary sense” in light of the broader objectives and intentions of the legislation. Central to the Court’s decision was that definitions of key terms in the by-law (e.g., “Driver,” “Operate,” “Taxicab,”) were written in the present, not past, tense. This indicated to the Court that the by-law does not require a ride to be completed for a violation to be found. The Court supported this inclusive reading by noting the many purposes of the by-law.
The impact of this decision may be somewhat qualified, however, because the Court declined to address a second ground of appeal raised by counsel for the driver. Appellate counsel had argued that terminology of the by-law restricts its application to taxi services offered to the public at large and excludes the private engagement of services between an Uber driver and passenger. The Court refused to consider this ground of appeal because, among other reasons, the argument was not made at trial.