Ford says 'party's over' for bad actors in tow truck turf war, establishes industry task force

Tow truck turf war

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is promising regulation and swift action on bad actors in the GTA's tow truck turf war, with the establishment of a task force to overhaul the industry. 

"My message is very clear, the party's over," Ford said Monday regarding the force, which will be made up of various Ontario cabinet ministers and the Ontario Provincial Police. 

A February investigation by the Globe and Mail revealed two years of conflict among feuding companies in the industry battling for space and revenue from collisions, leading to those involved lighting trucks on fire and eventually some people being killed. 

The Toronto Police Service laid charges against 11 people, including one of its own officers in one probe, and York Police announced in February a massive joint-forces investigation which has led to over two dozen arrests. 

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said the force has already met twice and will review recommendations in July, have stakeholder consultations in August and then legislative changes in the fall. 

Derek Didone with the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario welcomed the news, saying we've reached this point of violence because of the lack of licensing and oversight. 

"There's no barrier to entry right now," he said. "I can throw the keys at anyone and they can go out and be a tow truck operator." 

Didone said provincial licensing would greatly improve the system, allowing for oversight on both drivers and operators, as many involved in the ugly aspects of the war have been able to with little accountability. 

"There's no punishment for the bad actors," he said, adding he and others have been pushing for regulations long before the conflict, but it's gotten so bad that more politicians are paying attention. 

Mulroney said that licensing would be considered, while intending to getting rid of the "first-to-scene" rule, where drivers compete to getting to a collision first. 

"My understanding is this is an element to contributes to the violence and to reducing people's sense of safety as they're waiting for a tow," she said. 

OTHER TOPICS 

Ford also discussed several other topics on Monday, including the ongoing debate of Toronto City Council potentially cutting the 2021 Toronto police budget, small businesses and the Toronto Blue Jays. 

-"They can't just hang in there," Ford said when asked if businesses at risk of going bankrupt before reaching Stage 3 will receive any further financial measures or if they must wait. While not foreshadowing any new supports, said he supports the federal decision to extend the rent relief program and vows to cut business regulations to jumpstart the economy. 

-"He's just waiting for the letter of support from the federal government," Ford said about conversations with Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro about players and staff traveling back to Toronto. 

-"We don't believe in overruling any municipality," Ford said when asked if he would step in should the Toronto City Council cutting the police budget, which the premier has been constantly opposed to.