Policy, Research, Public Consultation and Events

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The Sharing Economy

The sharing economy consists of marketplaces and platforms that allow individuals and organizations to buy and sell goods and services directly from one another, and share or lend goods or assets on a short-term or time-share basis. 

City of Toronto staff are developing an action plan that will synthesize and reflect on existing research and practices and consider the City's role by analyzing challenges and opportunities that the sharing economy presents. The aim is develop a series of short, medium, and long-term actions.

The sharing economy has become a subject of much debate as policy makers try to identify the issues and understand potential impacts on people, neighbourhoods, the economy, and traditional industries.

The Sharing Economy: What is the role of Government?

ExpandThe Sharing Economy Forum

To better understand the sharing economy and the role of government, the City of Toronto, in partnership with MaRS Solutions Lab, hosted a 1-day forum at the Ismaili Centre in Toronto on October 29th for an audience of government staff and decision makers from across Ontario.

The Forum served as an opportunity for governments to learn from experts and discuss the key issues, challenges and opportunities for policy makers. The day featured moderator-led panels on the Economic and Social Impacts of the sharing economy. Guests also heard expert speakers, including April Rinne, Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum and Sunil Johal, Policy Director at the Mowat Centre. In the afternoon, attendees were engaged in roundtable workshop discussions led by MaRS Solutions Lab.

Read full summary.

ExpandThe Sharing Economy Forum Agenda

See the Sharing Economy Forum agenda

The Sharing Economy: What is the role of government?

October 29, 2015
8:15 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The Ismaili Centre (Aga Khan)
49 Wynford Drive, Toronto


Welcoming Remarks Mayor John Tory, City of Toronto

Keynote Address and Q&A: What is the sharing economy?

Sunil Johal, Policy Director at the Mowat Centre and co-author of Policymaking for the Sharing Economy: Beyond Whack-a-Mole, will set the stage by introducing the sharing economy and discussing the challenges and considerations through the lens of government and policy makers. What is the sharing economy and who is impacted? What influence does the sharing economy have on municipalities? Where might government fit in? 

Panel 1: Economic Impacts of the Sharing Economy

  • What industries are most at risk from being disrupted? How can traditional industries continue to compete with the growing presence of the sharing economy? How does the sharing economy impact jobs and job creation?
  • The sharing economy will continue to grow. How will this impact municipalities? How do we measure economic impacts?
  • What can government do to ensure that municipalities foster innovation and are prepared for impacts resulting from the growth of the sharing economy?

Moderator: Amber Kanwar, Anchor and Reporter, Business News Network (BNN) Panelists: Grant Brigden, Founder, Rover Parking Ted Graham, Innovation Leader, PwC Josh Hjartarson, VP, Public Sector, KPMG Management Services LP Erin Klassen, Community Programs and Partnerships, Etsy Aaron Zifkin, Country Manager – Canada, Airbnb

Panel 2: Social Impacts of the Sharing Economy 

  • How inclusive/accessible is the sharing economy? How does it include or exclude individuals? How does it reinforce inequalities?
  • Is the sharing economy displacing secure traditional jobs?
  • How does the sharing economy impact those who do not participate?
  • How can policy makers protect the public from negative social impacts without hindering competition and innovation? How do we measure social impacts?

Moderator: Mohamed Shuriye, United Way Campaign Manager, City of Toronto Panelists: Laura Anderson, Researcher, Wellesley Institute Adil Dhalla, Director of Culture, Centre for Social Innovation Ryan Dyment, Executive Director of the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy, and co-founder of the Toronto Tool Library Michelynn Laflèche, Director of Research, Public Policy, and Evaluation, United Way Toronto & York Region

Lunch Keynote Address and Q&A: International Lessons Learned

Jurisdictions around the world have had varied approaches to the sharing economy. While some have embraced its advent, others have exerted efforts in slowing its growth and societal impacts. Sharing economy expert, April Rinne, will discuss international approaches to grappling with the sharing economy, highlighting notable best practices and successes.

Keynote Speaker: April Rinne, Sharing Economy Advisor, World Economic Forum

A User Perspective on the Sharing Economy: Our first local insights

Speaker: Joeri van den Steenhoven, Director of the MaRS Solutions Lab

MaRS Solutions Lab Workshop 1: Public value & identifying role of government in the sharing economy

Harnessing the Power of the Sharing Economy: Next steps for Ontario

Speaker: Karl Baldauf, VP Policy and Government Relations, Ontario Chamber of Commerce

MaRS Solutions Lab Workshop 2: Smart rules and next steps

Cities and the Sharing Economy: What's Next?

Speaker: Rob Meikle, Chief Information Officer, City of Toronto

Closing Remarks

Tracey Cook, Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, City of Toronto

Sharing Economy Forum Presentations

ExpandWhat is the Sharing Economy?

Download a copy of the presentation.  

What is the Sharing Economy?

Presented at the Sharing Economy Forum
October 29, 2015
Sunil Johal, Policy Director, Mowat Centre

Our research

  • Policymaking for Sharing Economy
  • City of Ottawa: Taxi Review
  • OECD : Tourism and the Sharing Economy
  • Metrolinx: GTA Transportation Review

Today’s Presentation

  • What is the sharing economy?
  • Why this matters from a public policy perspective.
  • How to move forward.

What is the sharing economy?

Marketplaces/platforms that allow people to:

• buy goods and services directly from one another, instead of from traditional businesses.
• share the same assets on a rental/time-share basis, rather than buying.
Infographic 'not just Uber and Airbnb'

Is this really new?

Peer-to-peer transactions aren’t new, but the scale is.

Technology allows it to be relatively frictionless and safe, making it more appealing.

Easy to expand rapidly – no need for physical infrastructure to enter new city. Regulatory barriers are central to their trajectory.

Speed & Scale of growth

  • Airbnb, established 2008, valued at approx $25B. Official provider for Rio games.
  • Uber, established 2009, valued at over $50B – more than General Motors.
  • Etsy held an IPO in April, current market cap around $1.5B.

Levels of participation

circle graph of household income coming from sharing economy

Established Operators
Broader Public

Why this matters from a public policy perspective

  • New models breaking the regulatory mould
  • Sharing economy platforms creating their own rules while governments scramble to respond.
  • Lack of evolution means broad change of outdated regulation.
  • Creating an unfair gap between rules faced by traditional operators and their competitors

infographic showing how sharing economy creates an unfair gap between rules faced by traditional operators and their competitors


  • New models can broaden economic opportunity & encourage innovation
  • Improved service delivery and more efficient use of assets
  • Data available through sharing economy platforms to better understand issues such as access and equity


  • Incompatible with command and control regulatory models
  • Political and cultural context for governments is a hurdle
  • Diversity among sharing economy platforms means one size won’t fit all and will require more flexible approaches

How to move forward - Beyond "whack-a-mole"

  • Response so far has been disconnected and unproductive.
  • Need to step back and establish a principles-based strategic operating framework.
  • Address structures and culture in government.

Smarter regulatory responses

Some starting points:

  • More performance-based regulation
  • Harness data on reputation and operation
  • Use waivers and exemptions for learning periods
  • Review existing regulation
  • Consider tiered approaches for part-timers.

Opportunity to learn

Sharing economy is popular with consumers for reasons that governments can learn from:

  • Better use of data.
  • Maximizing the value of assets
  • More efficient marketplaces

It won’t stop here

Getting the sharing economy right is important, but important to learn from the experience to address new challenges and opportunities

  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Internet of things

ExpandDesign Perspective on Regulating the Sharing Economy

Download a copy of the presentation.

A Design Perspective on Regulating the Sharing Economy
our First Local Insights

Joeri Van den Steenhoven
October 29, 2015

Public Design for Smarter Government

The Sharing Economy is posing challenging questions to governments on how best to regulate this.

Effective regulation:

  • Deals with changing environment
  • Addresses public policy concerns
  • Reduces burden of compliance

The Value of a Design Perspective

Step 1: Understand challenges from user perspective - institutional perspective; user perspective; system perspective

Step 2: Design solutions from "empty box approach" - convene different stakeholders, define public value, then deisgn possible ways to create it

March 2016 report

Step 3: Test and gather evidence of what works - iterative policy making: run time-limited policy experiments and see what works

How to create effective regulation for the sharing economy?

Some first findings from two cases

We want you to feel the same pain.
Hotel Operator to Airbnb

I want them to feel my pain.
Taxi Driver speaking of UberX drivers

Case 1: Accommodations Industry

Home sharing and hotels

Accommodation Regulations

  • Liquor License Act
  • Liquor Control Act
  • Employment Standards Act
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Labour Relations Act
  • Pay Equity Act
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Act
  • Ontario College of Trades Act
  • Private Security and Investigative Services Act
  • Employer Health Tax Act
  • Corporations Tax Act
  • Business Corporations Act
  • Hotel Registration of Guests Act
  • Business Names Act
  • Innkeepers Act
  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
  • Consumer Protections Act
  • Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Ontario Water Resources Act
  • Ministry of Environment Source
  • Separation Regulations
  • Waste Diversion Act
  • Environmental Protection Act
  • Health Protection and Promotion Act
  • Smoke-Free Ontario Act
  • Planning Act
  • Ontario Fire Code
  • Ontario Building Code
  • Ontario Human Rights Code

Infographic about Jeremy the hotel operator's career

infographic about hotelier career path

inforgraphic about Melissa the Airbnb Host and why she's opening an airbnb in her home

Inforgraphic about journey to become an airbnb host

accommodation journey

accommodation journeys

accommodation journeys

Self-Regulation: the power of reviews

"Anything that your staff does shows up (online) the next day. That level of interaction increases the quality across the board because now you can write a review that sticks and spreads. People are competing to be a better class property by competing for these good reviews. It keeps everyone on their toes. We motivate our staff with reviews."
Hostel Owner

Condominium Boards as Regulators

"One of the reasons my condo banned Airbnb is because they don't want people coming in and out for safety reasons. It's funny because I don't choose my neighbour, they could be a serial killer. Whereas Airbnb you're verified, your social networks are all connected. I think it's even more safe."
Airbnb Host

Case 2: Transportation Industry

New Entrants:
Right bike
Community Access BikeShare
Sobi Hamilton
Bike Share Toronto

Maple Leaf

Transportation Regulations

Municipal Code Chapter 545, Licensing, City of Toronto
Highway Traffic Act
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
City of Toronto Act
Insurance Act
Smoke Free Act
Income Tax Act
Consumer Protections Act

inforgraphic about Mohamed and his journey to become a taxi driver

inforgraphic about taxi driver journey

infographic about peter's journey to become an uberx driver from a busboy

infographic about uberx driver journey

transportation journey

transportation journeys

transportation journeys

Fare Evasion

"I like Uber Taxi because I don't have to worry about fares not being paid and feel safer knowing that if customers do the wrong thing, they will be caught because their information is in the database."
Uber Taxi driver


"I didn't tell my insurance company. You don't need to, because the thing is, if you get into an accident with a passenger in your car, Uber will take care of everything. It's under their insurance. But if I was going somewhere to pick you up and got into an accident, then it's my insurance that has to cover it."
UberX driver

Plate Rentals

"Plates are the property of the city, but it is controlled like private property. The plate owners are destroying the industry. They are highly unregulated. Someone is controlling the fares, but the meter is controlled by the city. What drive have to pay to rent the plates is not controlled."
Taxicab driver who rents his cab

Accessibility: also a driver issue

"I used to use the dispatch services of Beck, but had to change to independent because Beck had a rule that forced drivers to help disabled and elderly customers with their luggage. Because of my health conditions and back injury, I could not do that. So, I switched to Uber."
Uber taxi driver

How to create effective regulation for the sharing economy?

  • Public Value
  • Don't stop innovation
  • Easy to understand
  • Easy to implement
  • Easy to comply

Next Steps

  • Further research and analysis of regulatory user journeys
  • Identify where we can make process better
  • Design possible ways to create better public value
  • Experiment before putting it into legislation

ExpandHarnessing the Power of the Sharing Economy

Download a copy of the presentation.

Presentation by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce at the Sharing Economy Forum

October 29, 2015

Karl Baldauf,
Vice President, Policy & Government Relations

The numbers tell the story…
Ontarians are already there

  • There are 400,000+ Uber riders in Toronto alone
  • $5.4 million in funding received by online marketplace lending platform Borrowell to launch in 2015

What is the Sharing Economy?

Sharing economy firms either:

  • Own goods or provide services that they rent to customers, often on a short-term basis, or
  • Create peer-to-peer platforms connecting providers and users for the exchange, purchase, or renting of goods and services.

Ontario has the chance to be a first-mover

  • Jurisdictions building frameworks that protect the public interest while supporting innovation will be more likely to incubate the new technologies that will drive economic growth in the future.
  • Channeled properly, the sharing economy can create value for consumers by create competition.
  • By adopting smart and new regulatory responses to the growth of the sharing economy, Ontario and Canada have the ability to act as first movers in the sharing economy space, and in doing so, harness its economic potential.

Ontarians view the sharing economy as a ‘good thing’ for Ontario

  • 67% of Ontarians believe that the growth of companies in the “sharing economy” is a good thing for the economy.
  • 40% of young Ontarians (18-34) are consumers in the sharing economy.

Affordability and convenience drive consumers towards the sharing economy

  • 58% of sharing economy users say they use these services because they’re more affordable.
  • 45% say they use these services because they’re more convenient.

Ontarians don’t want services banned

Only 1 in 5 Ontarians believe Uber should be banned from operating in Ontario

“It’s appropriate to demand that Uber play fair, but the rules of the game should themselves be fair and designed to benefit consumers. …Political leaders in Canada should feel emboldened to enable the innovators rather than erect roadblocks to keep them out.” – Globe & Mail

Ontario Chamber of Commerce Recommendations

Recommendation #1
Establish a cross-jurisdictional taskforce with representation from government, thought leaders, and industry (including existing operators and new market entrants) with a mandate to analyze the opportunities and impacts of the sharing economy and make comprehensive recommendations.

Recommendation #2
Use the advent of the sharing economy as an opportunity to develop a new, “empty the box” approach to regulation, building on the taskforce’s research, analysis, and recommendations. This approach to regulatory reform keeps intact only those provisions that are necessary and relevant today.

Recommendation #3
Engage industry to fill any gaps in insurance coverage.

Recommendation #4
Consider the impacts of the growth of the sharing economy as it undertakes reviews of workplace legislation.

Recommendation #5
Work with the federal government to develop a ‘how-to’ guide on tax compliance in the sharing economy.

Recommendation #6
Analyze income reporting levels in the sharing economy and develop a clear understanding of the motivating factors behind providers’ decisions to report or not report income, and establish and clarify appropriate rules moving forward (e.g. minimum income thresholds).

ExpandCities and the Sharing Economy: What’s Next?

Download a copy of the presentation.

Cities and the Sharing Economy: What’s Next?

Rob Meikle, Chief Information Officer, City of Toronto

October 29, 2015

infographic about benefits of sharing economy

sharing economy technology stack

Inforgraphic about access, mobility/convenience, resource, utilization/optimization, openness

smart city strategic framework

labelled picture of downtown area showing smart parking, smart building, etc

image showing that 'an innovative city that lives, works and plays'

Where Cities Go Next

Establish Regulatory Framework/Regulations

•Foster Partnership in Government at all levels

Build Sharing Economy in context for Smart City/IT Strategy

•Economic, Social and Technology Drivers

Focus on Sharing in a Smart City

•Make effective use of finite resources
•Meet City social, economic & environmental goals, strong quality of life

Balance Approach - Opportunity vs. Threat

•Foster benefits, support innovation, protect the public interest

Plan for the introduction of technologies beyond the current regulatory sphere, i.e. driverless cars