Should St. Albert consider taxi regulations?
Surrounding municipalities move towards taxi bylaws
Sunday, Mar 02, 2014 06:00 am
When getting into a taxi cab, most people don’t stop and think about who their driver is – they trust it’s a safe space.
But while many municipalities insist on criminal record checks and other screening for cabbies, St. Albert has no such requirement.
To start a cab company here, all one really needs is a business licence, a cellphone and presumably a commercially registered vehicle.
Edmonton has numerous requirements to get a taxi licence in that city, including security clearance, proof of driver training, English-language competency tests and more.
The City of Leduc had new regulations come into effect Nov. 1, 2013 that require top lights, metres and decals that identify the taxi is allowed to operate in Leduc. Taxi companies are required to sign a statutory declaration that they’ve conducted police clearances for their staff.
Strathcona County has changes in progress via a bylaw that was first read in June last year. Those changes would require a driver’s abstract check and a criminal record check.
“It’s just focused on safety,” said Glenna Kemp, Strathcona’s director of legislative and legal services. She noted this meant the bylaw doesn’t address the idea of a taxi commission or limits on the number of taxi licences issued.
Meanwhile St. Albert and nearby Sturgeon County and Spruce Grove have no taxi-specific regulations.
Sgt. Carolyn Cameron of the St. Albert RCMP said that’s a concern for the police, for whom safety is a primary concern.
“Who are we sending in our taxis? Our vulnerable people,” she said.
Right now some of the local companies probably do a great job screening their drivers, Cameron said, but without checks being required there is the possibility for a person with an unsavoury past to get behind the wheel. And no one would know it.
“The potential is there. Are we going to wait in St. Albert for something to happen?” she asked.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said while it hasn’t been on council’s agenda, it has been raised by the RCMP as an issue that should be looked at.
“It’s an interesting question because the short answer is no, but the RCMP inspector is suggesting that it should get on our radar.”
Crouse said the city hears the occasional complaint about taxis from residents.
“We get the odd complaint about it but we haven’t gotten anything on our list right now for 2014,” he said.
Some owners of local cab companies would be okay with a safety bylaw or a taxi commission, if it was done right.
First, however, J.P. Cloutier, who acquired Aaron Taxis last year, would like to see the market in St. Albert protected.
There is a shortage of cabs in St. Albert during peak periods, Cloutier said. And while St. Albert taxis have to go through an expensive process if they want to pick up fares in Edmonton, for Edmonton cabs coming into St. Albert it merely costs them a business licence to be able to pick up in this city.
“The market for St. Albert taxis is not protected enough,” he said.
“Once we have the rules to protect our local market, then I’m open to the possibility of strategies to continue to better the taxi service within our community. There’s many ways we can get this done and a taxi commission is actually one of them,” he said, though added if a taxi commission is pursued, local owners should be involved in its creation.
The owner of St. Albert Taxi is onboard with the idea of a taxi commission and screening requirements.
“I don’t see a problem with it as long as it’s down properly,” Blair Logan said of the idea of deeper regulations.
Logan said his company already asks for criminal record checks and a clean driver’s abstract, in addition to some training before putting the driver on the road.
“All the companies here in St. Albert haul kids, so you want to make sure whoever you have behind the wheel is safe,” Logan said.
Logan would like to see all cab companies in St. Albert operating on a level playing field. While he paints his fleet the same colour, puts on top lights and makes sure there are metres in each vehicle, not everyone does so nor are they required to.
“We try and follow the same guidelines as Edmonton does,” Logan says of his company’s practices.