PARRY SOUND –It's status quo for Parry Sound Taxi, but the town is willing to continue to work with the business.
Despite many meetings, suggested alternatives and postponed bylaws, last week the town approved a report and recommendation that allows the municipality to continue to issue temporary taxi driver licenses. It further denies the company full rein over obtaining its own criminal reference checks and/or vulnerable screening as well as issuing temporary drivers' licenses.
At an August 14 council meeting, the taxi company made a formal appeal to town council, asking for full control of its hiring procedures within the company.
Set its own rates
It’s been just two years since the town stopped regulating taxi fares, allowing Parry Sound Tax to set its own rates.
An amendment to its bylaw in February gave town staff the authority to grant temporary, 60-day licenses while new, or existing employees are waiting for criminal reference checks and/or a vulnerable screenings, providing the individuals show receipts to prove the checks are forthcoming.
But the bylaw states the town "may" issue the temporary licenses.
At council's September 4 meeting, a bylaw that would have denied the company's request to amend the current bylaw regarding the issuing of the temporary licenses was postponed, pending a meeting between the town's bylaw enforcement officer and the taxi company.
Last week, council approved Option three of a report from bylaw enforcement officer Tammy Purdy that will have the two groups, as well as the OPP, continue to work together to develop a procedure to issue the temporary licenses.
"The bylaw enforcement department is recommending that the municipality continues to license taxi drivers and vehicles - bylaw status quo - and work with the taxi industry to implement a process to issue temporally taxi drivers' licenses," wrote Purdy in her October 2 report to council. "Further, to develop a policy that details threshold to assist the issuer of licenses with their decision to issue a business license to applicants who've criminal offences on their record."
Parry Sound Taxi co-owner Tammy Kappes made further suggestions to council asking for the owners to be able to take ownership and responsibility for hiring drivers and screening them.
"This would remove all liability from the town, while allowing us to conduct our business independently," said Kappes. "We will collect all necessary forms such as criminal reference checks; driver abstracts and will be able to complete a form acknowledging that we have conducted the appropriate screening and recommend such individuals for a license.
“In order to receive a temporary licence from the issuer of licenses the applicant will provide a letter from the taxi owner, attesting to the completion of the initial documentation and screening. The owner and the applicant will both sign a letter attesting that the owner will take full responsibility for monitoring and the individual while providing service for the taxi company until full documentation is received."
Through lengthy discussions and meetings, town CAO Rob Mens said the issue remains the same - protection of the public.
"If council decides that it should have a role in protecting the public in regard to the taxi service, it must determine the extent of that service and the degree of protection for the public, the town and its staff," Mens said. "Parry Sound Taxi appears to be requesting that the town continue to issue taxi licences, but that the control over who gets those licences is left with the taxi company. This would place the town in a high level of risk exposure. As noted in this (report), there is no other regulatory agency with responsibility for the taxi industry. That leaves the town, or no one."
Council unanimously approved the report and recommendation.