After years of being directed to do so, the Toronto Licensing Tribunal has quietly begun posting its reasons for decisions.
Reasons for Tribunal decisions made in 2012 are now available at the City’s website.
The move has been years in the making. Despite direction to do so in its enabling legislation and bylaws, and repeated instruction from Council to do so, Tribunal staff had not posted decisions, reasons for decisions, or detailed information related to the Tribunal. Individuals who contested Municipal Licensing & Standards decisions, or their representatives, had been able only to obtain copies of their own decisions.
People preparing for a hearing, or those interested in learning more about City licensees, had limited access to records of hearings and reasons for decisions, despite legislative mandates.
Criminal Checks Every Four Years
This change follows a Toronto Star investigation into the taxi licensing system. It revealed a lack of reasons for decisions, even where health and safety are affected. The Star found that the City has a policy of checking criminal records every four years, allowing drivers with criminal convictions to keep driving. Some councillors were concerned that the situation could pose a risk to the public.
The City has suggested it may mandate that criminal background checks on licensees be done every two years, at least. The Municipal Licensing & Standards Committee of Toronto City Council has asked the division’s executive director to report back in September on ways and means of changing the Toronto Licensing Tribunal process, as it pertains to taxis.
Barry Randell, Toronto’s director of court services, has said that posting the decisions online is just one step in a plan to increase public access to the Tribunal’s activities.
Municipal Code Creates Tribunal
The City of Toronto regulates the operation of trades, businesses and related occupations. Municipal Code Chapter 545-3 – Licensing, creates the Tribunal.
Companies or individuals whose licences have been denied or otherwise affected by Municipal Licensing & Standards, can request a hearing before the Toronto Licensing Tribunal.
Seven citizen appointees on the quasi-judicial Tribunal form three-member panels to hear cases related to contraventions of the Licensing Bylaw. It meets Thursday mornings at the East York Civic Centre, 850 Coxwell Avenue.
The Tribunal is empowered to grant, refuse, suspend, revoke or place conditions on a licence.
The lion’s share of hearings are related to taxi and tow truck licences. A wide range of licensed businesses can appeal decisions to the tribunal, including food cart operators, massage parlours, corner stores, building renovators and driving instructors.
Licensing Threshold Triggers Hearings
About 10,400 taxi drivers are licensed to drive about 5,000 taxis in Toronto. Licenses are renewed annually. The City applies a “threshold” to the licenses, with points accumulated for everything from untidy cabs, to traffic tickets and criminal convictions. Municipal Licensing & Standards relies primarily on self-reporting for criminal convictions.
Of the roughly 340 drivers who appealed the city’s decision to refuse to grant or renew their taxi licence in the past five years, 53 were denied. Most often, the licensees or their representatives had reached a joint settlement agreement with City staff, which was accepted by the Tribunal.
While some appellants attempt to argue their tickets and convictions at the Tribunal, that is not its purpose; the Tribunal conducts hearings and adjudicates on whether a licence should be issued, refused, suspended, revoked or have conditions placed upon it. The Tribunal conducts itself in accordance with the Statutory Powers Procedure Act.
Licensing Tribunal: Governance, Rules, Procedures
The Tribunal is governed according to various legislation and guidance, including:
According to the Toronto Municipal Code, Tribunal decisions may be the subject of an Application for Judicial Review through the Ontario Divisional Court.
More information on Municipal Licensing & Standards, and the Tribunal, is available in the most-recent reports submitted to the City:
Report from the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, on Toronto Licensing Tribunal – 2012 Annual Report
Toronto Licensing Tribunal 2012 Annual Report