• Tow Truck Industry

Lawyer’s Words on W5 about Tow Trucks Made Blood Run Cold 

It’s time for the provincial government to take action on Ontario’s tow truck problem.

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald November 6, 2020

I saw something on television last Saturday night that made me mad, as in really, really angry.

A young Toronto lawyer, whose life had been threatened, was told by the police that they could not guarantee her safety and that she should not only get out of town, she should leave the country.

If you can believe it, the OPP then drove her to the border and said, in so many words, see you, you’re on your own.

It was appalling to hear that, to put it mildly. What made me mad, though, was that by doing that, the police, who are sworn to keep the peace and to protect us all, are saying to you and me and our families and our friends: you cannot count on us. If somebody threatens your life, you handle it. Don’t call us. We won’t answer.

I’m talking about the tow-truck industry here, a cartel that is ripping off insurance companies and, ultimately, motorists, to the tune of billions of dollars a year. They appear to have the police under their thumb, too. Because of a decision made years ago by the OPP to clear accident scenes employing a “first available” model, rather than calling on a rotating group of approved tow companies, a situation has been created whereby threats, intimidation and, ultimately, violence, have become the norm on the roads of southern and central Ontario, rather than the exception.

And the one legislative body that could do something about this, the governments of Ontario (I use the plural “governments” because it doesn’t matter the political stripe: Liberal, Conservative, NDP – they’ve all passed the buck) have stepped aside and enabled those outlaws to literally run amok.

If this were a movie, John Wayne or Gary Cooper would have to ride into town to take care of the bad guys because the sheriff would be hiding under a table, behind the bar in the saloon. But this isn’t a movie. It’s 2020 in Canada and although we have a premier who likes to talk tough, nobody ever does anything.

How did it come to this? Toronto Star Wheels, naturally, was the first to blow the whistle on these renegades, but that was years ago, when the Liberals were first in government and they preferred to do business with the bad guys instead of putting them in jail and throwing away the key. ($2 million in mob money, most in $20 bills, was paid by the accused to innocent victim Louise Russo, left paralyzed when she got in the way of an underworld hit at a sandwich shop. The deal was approved by the Ontario attorney general, if you can believe it.)

In the last year, the Globe and Mail published an investigative feature on the towing scandal and I wrote a column after nearly being scared out of my wits by one of the “first available” tow-trucks, who flashed past me on the 403 in a rush to be the first on scene to get the prize – the tow.

People caught up in car crashes are usually upset and not thinking straight and a friendly voice and arm around the shoulder are usually enough to get the scam going. Once a car is hooked up, the fish has been caught. You can be charged for the hookup and to unhook your vehicle at a body shop, which essentially owns the car once it takes possession and will charge the victim or his/her insurance company a fortune to release it.

Insurance companies and the big banks have lawyers in court all the time fighting these excessive charges. And that’s where one lawyer, Lisa Carr, comes in. She was interviewed on CTV’s W5 last Saturday night and what she said and the way she said it convinced me that with the police abdicating their responsibility in her case, none of us is safe.

There’s a task force out there somewhere, dragging its heels while investigating this mess, and they are supposed to be advising the Conservative government on what to do about it. They have been at it awhile and, according to W5, still haven’t set a date when they will deliver their recommendations.

This is not rocket science. Doug Ford does not have to wait. This situation is out of control and all he has to do is call a press conference and announce that the government is taking over the industry, just like his Tory predecessor, Mike Harris, straightened out the ambulance-chasing that was going on during his tenure.

Forget waiting for your task force, Premier. Take 20 minutes and watch a recording of last Saturday’s W5 and it will tell you everything you have to know, particularly when this young lawyer, Lisa Carr, says she had to leave the province and the country to save her life, just for doing her job.

I mean, my God.

Norris McDonald is a retired Star editor who continues to write for Wheels under contract. He reviews the weekend’s auto racing every Monday at wheels.ca