Here are the problems with the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Airport Authority jointly trying to obtain an injunction to prevent Unifor taxi drivers from acting illegally as part of their protest.

It means the city is taking sides in the complicated conflict. Yes the Airport Authority is not a part of the dispute between the union and Coventry Connections. However the airport has doubled its fees for taxi drivers to use the airport and those fee increases are being passed on to the drivers.

So the drivers are concerned about the actions of the airport in relation to its deal with Coventry. However now the city has chosen a side. That’s not the business of the city. If anything, the city should be trying to bring members of its community together, not divide them. That was not helped recently by Mayor Jim Watson calling the protesting cabbies “thugs”.

If the city is concerned about illegal activities occurring around the protests, it doesn’t need an injunction. Instead, the city and the police need to enforce the laws on the books. You don’t require an injunction to do that. If activities are illegal, the police know how to deal with them. Enforce the law.

So in joining with the airport authority, the city is showing solidarity with the airport and has picked a side in the dispute. That’s bad business.

The city should be trying to end the dispute, not issuing ineffective grandstanding injunctions to show it is doing something about the actions, some illegal, some not, of the taxi drivers.

In case the city hasn’t noticed, the cabbies are very inventive protesters. They will not be stopped by an injunction. If the taxi drivers can’t protest at the airport, they move to the Airport Parkway. If they can’t protest on the parkway, where do they move next? Highway 417? Ottawa City Hall? Lansdowne Park? In truth, most anywhere they want in the city. Mayor Jim Watson could call out the army and not have enough troops to keep the cabbies from finding new ways to protest.

No Watson has just invented a new Whac-A-Mole game. A cabbie protest pops up and the city clubs it down. The cabbies appear in a new place. This could go on for awhile.

Watson has never been much good in acting on the fly when it comes to controversial decisions. The classic case was the casino dispute where the mayor flip-flopped a number of times and eventually blamed the problem on the province. Bad idea.

We’re increasingly seeing a municipal government out of control: a $52-million operating budget deficit; zoning and community design plans being treated as suggestions; a casino dispute that alienated the Ottawa Senators, one of the most important businesses in town; and now a taxi protest that is slowing a major artery in town.

So what does the city do? It joins with a stakeholder in the dispute to issue an unnecessary injunction to fight the taxi-driver union. That’s not the job of the city. It has lots of legal tools at its command. Instead Ottawa experiences a very sad day in the history of union-management disputes in this community with the municipality taking sides. This is unfortunate.

Will injunction stop the protests (if we really do want to stop the protests)? Unlikely. Legal protests are fundamental to our society. All issuing an injunction might achieve is make the city look as if it is doing something.

The injunction will inflame the cabbies to do even more drastic things.

And at the heart of this change is Mayor Jim Watson trying to look like he is dealing with the dispute and failing miserably in the process. This is about grandstanding politics to appeal to voters, not finding a solution.

The injunction will drive all the stakeholders to this dispute farther apart.

Watson is awkwardly getting into a question even bigger than his casino fiasco.

Memo to the mayor: Your job is to find solutions to problems, not to make them worse for your own political gain.

It’s difficult to put out a fire with gasoline.


Original Post: Injunction Inflames Nasty Taxi Dispute

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