Gig economy

Holding cities responsible for Uber's tactics. Plus hospital vaccine rules, McGill's encampment, and the first Canadian Amazon union.


The new version of ChatGPT is pretty cool. If you haven’t watched the demos, that’s not the only way to assess performance—the live translation feature was impressive enough to wipe out a significant portion of Duolingo’s market cap.

But if ChatGPT is so great, does that mean I’m the problem?

— Dylan Gibbs

with Alexandra Son, Ethan Russell, Michel Hajjar, and Evan Dyson


6-min read

  • Negligent bylaw enforcement

  • Hospital vaccine mandates

  • Continuing encampments

  • Unionized warehouses

  • Lacklustre experts


Ottawa on the hook for Uber crushing competition

Taxi runs over mobile phone

Uber’s aggressive market entry playbook hasn’t earned the company many friends. But this week, the fallout landed on the City of Ottawa.

Justice Marc Smith held Ottawa responsible for Uber ravaging the taxi industry. Uber entered Ottawa without a license and operated for two years without consequence. Ottawa could have cracked down by enforcing its bylaws. But the City hung cabbies out to dry instead. And Justice Smith said that was negligent.

How we got here: Uber lawsuit superfans might remember taxi drivers suing Toronto for the same thing—and coming up short. Justice Perell said Toronto wasn’t obligated to protect taxi drivers’ interests. Just because the City regulated the taxi industry didn’t mean it owed the drivers a duty of care.

The Divisional Court upheld that decision, noting the negative policy implications of holding Toronto responsible:

To impose a duty of care on the City to protect licensed businesses from competition from unlicensed businesses opens municipalities to the spectre of unlimited liability. Municipalities have limited resources. How they choose to allocate their limited resources to enforce by-laws should not be driven by the risk of claims for economic loss by other businesses. This is not an issue that requires a trial.

Eisenberg v. Toronto, 2021 ONSC 2776 at para 62

Same same, but different: Justice Smith said the Ottawa and Toronto cases were alike but not identical. He agreed Ottawa didn’t commit itself to the cabbie cause simply by regulating taxi licenses. But Ottawa didn’t stop there.

Justice Smith said Ottawa acted more like a joint venture partner than a regulator—teaming up with taxi drivers to combat unlicensed operators. And that team spirit was the City’s downfall:

The relationship between the Plaintiffs and the City developed into an open-door, free flowing, collaborative, and cooperative relationship… For decades, the City nurtured the relationship with the taxi industry, exceeding the scope of a regulator…

Through its conduct, the City entered into a special relationship with the taxi industry… [The City therefore had to enforce its bylaws] to protect … the taxi industry’s financial interests.

Paras 145, 169

Big picture: The drivers are claiming $215 million for the gutted value of their taxi permits. The damages portion of the trial hasn’t happened yet, but Ottawa could be staring down a hefty bill. Assuming the City appeals, this case will be one to watch. Justice Smith’s decision suggests governments can commit themselves to a particular policy position by working too closely with industry—even if they don’t make any promises or assurances.



💉 Hospital vaccine mandates are still reasonable. Fifteen applicants tried to challenge the province’s ongoing vaccination requirements for healthcare workers. They didn’t find much success. BC’s Supreme Court said the province reasonably extended the vaccination requirements last fall based on evidence that COVID-19 still posed a risk.

  • The workers did take home a partial victory though. The Court ordered the province to at least consider exempting workers who don’t come into contact with patients or frontline workers.

  • If you prefer your outcomes in tongue-twister form, the Court ordered the province to reconsider whether to consider requests for reconsideration.

⛺️ The McGill encampment is still kicking. Justice St-Pierre dismissed the University’s application for an injunction yesterday, basing his decision on a lack of urgency. McGill alleged the protests posed a risk of harm, but Justice St-Pierre said the risk was purely hypothetical. He didn’t comment on the appropriate balance between freedom of expression and property ownership, saying the issues are too complex to resolve in an interim injunction hearing. Justice St-Pierre’s full decision is available in French.

📦 Amazon workers united. In a Canadian first, workers unionized at an Amazon warehouse in Laval. But Amazon isn’t going down without a fight. The company plans to argue that the process used to certify the union violates the Charter. The issue, according to Amazon, is that workers formed the union without a vote. The company says the voteless process violates freedom of association because it impacts workers’ ability to choose their representatives.

Workers, after hearing that Amazon is just looking out for them:

kate mckinnon thank you GIF by Rough Night Movie

🚗 Ontario is tackling auto theft with hefty license suspensions. The new suspensions are the focal point of the Safer Roads and Communities Act, tabled today. Anyone convicted of stealing a vehicle will face a 10-year license suspension. The suspension length increases to 15 years for a second offence and becomes an indefinite ban on strike three. As some have pointed out, those penalties are pretty steep:

Tweet by John Michael McGrath, noting that new suspensions for auto theft are longer than current suspensions for vehicular manslaughter


Don’t hire your expert witness on fiverr. A self-represented accused relied on an artificial intelligence expert to defend his fraud charges. He said that—even though it sounded like he had been caught on tape—the voice on the tape was an AI-generated clone. Unfortunately for the accused, the Court didn’t think the proposed expert had the chops to comment:

Mr. Mudasar is not remotely qualified to testify as an expert witness on Artificial Intelligence (AI), voice cloning or voice analysis. He is a pleasant and personable 22-year-old man who is a resident of Pakistan.

His C.V. and testimony establish that, after finishing high school in 2017 (the C.V.) or 2019 (his testimony), he paused his studies because his marks were not high enough to contemplate university.

He also completed three online courses… in the non-credit specialization of “prompt engineering”.

He has no special ability in the field of voice cloning as compared to any other young person who would consult YouTube videos on the subject.

Azubuike c. R., 2024 QCCS 1654


Dylan Gibbs

That’s all for today. Govern yourself accordingly.

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