Taxi bylaw up for review

Issues creating talk of change

The lack of a taxi bylaw in the Municipality of Lunenburg is causing problems in Bridgewater.

The taxi bylaw requires taxi businesses in Bridgewater to have annual licences and vehicle inspections, along with criminal record checks. But the municipality does not have any such regulation.

“As a result, it’s created a situation where some taxis are operating without a licence in town. This creates an unfair playing field for those operating as licenced drivers, and it’s also problematic for our staff trying to enforce the existing bylaw,” said Bridgewater staffer Patrick Hirtle at a February 23 council meeting.

The town’s bylaw enforcement officer reported there are also issues with the enforceability of the existing regulation. He said it’s difficult to ensure compliance from drivers.

“The lack of co-operation from witnesses, who are often reluctant to speak against taxi services that they use, and also the difficulty of conclusively reporting the location of pickups and drop-offs. You’d have to follow that driver around and see them conducting it two or three different times before you can conclusively say it’s proven,” said Mr. Hirtle.

As a result, the bylaw is almost impossible to enforce.

“It’s a bylaw and it really has a one per cent success rate,” said Bridgewater bylaw enforcement officer Jerome Richard. “That’s because I put 12 months of work in to charge one taxi driver twice. I have a lot more things to do than chase some guys around for $233,” he said.

The options presented to council were to repeal the taxi bylaw or to approach the municipality to see if there was any interest in developing a joint taxi bylaw.

“If we repeal the bylaw then it may put some residents at risk,” said Councillor Wayne Thorburne. The state of the vehicle and the character of the driver would also be unmonitored. Mr. Hirtle also worried that predatory rate setting could also occur.

“It would be easier to control,” added Sgt. Richard. “Right now, if you don’t play by the rules I can’t do anything at the moment. … For the town bylaw to stand alone, it’s unenforceable. I hope it’s revised and we can get something going with the municipality.”

According to the town, there are seven owner-drivers and an additional 21 drivers licenced to operate a taxi within the town. But some operators have indicated they will not renew their licences because of unlicenced operations.

The co-owner of Bridgewater’s Reliable Cab company, Pete Waston, said a if a joint bylaw was created for both areas, cab companies would have to meet the same standards.

“I’m not going to go through the town. I’m not going through the inspections and I’m standing on a matter of principle. That principle is if you’re going to enforce the bylaws, enforce it for everybody not just for one,” said Mr. Watson. “I’m not giving licence for my cars because I’m frustrated. … These people are doing this right under their noses, and they’re telling me they can’t do anything about it, so why should I turn around put out $50 per permit per car, plus $35 for the Department of Transportation to inspect them plus pay another $50 to get reinspected and have a sticker on it from the garage? For what, if they’re not going to enforce the law?”

He said repealing the bylaw would not affect his company because it does and will continue to abide by the rules.

Mr. Hirtle took the issue to the Municipality of Lunenburg committee of the whole on March 3. Council referred the matter to the next meeting of Lunenburg County mayors and wardens, saying a bylaw, if any, should include Mahone Bay, Lunenburg and possibly Chester.

“It might be an item that could be added to the mayors and wardens [meeting] for discussion to have a harmonize policy throughout,” said Mayor Don Downe.

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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