Feb. 26, 2008
President, Darrell J. Downeys Presentation
Myself and other drivers believe we have a responsibility to provide a high-quality of service to the Citizens of Halifax Regional Municipality. Under a system of limitations this is even a greater challenge, as the Citizens' expectations sometimes exceed reality when it comes to response time. Under limitations we can guarantee a reasonable response time, a fair fare and a professional driver.
WITHOUT LIMITATIONS, Some people are of the opinion that the communities will be better served if more cabs are allowed into the industry and this can be achieved by removing limitations, however this is not the case and will be addressed in a later paragraph.
The drivers are already feeling the effects of long hours of work and the risks involved because of the night shifts, which is usually during the closing of the downtown core pubs and bars. Unfortunately, because of these circumstances some drivers have left the industry and sought other employment opportunities where the pay was consistent and the risks were less and it afforded them more time to spend with family affairs.
Without limitations, the drivers in the industry would experience a decrease in their income, making financial hardships and changing their quality of life to sub-standard, perhaps in some cases having to rely on the government for financial assistance for themselves and their family.
The increase or decrease of the number of cabs in a community was usually determined by the law of supply and demand when warranted. The number of cabs in other municipalities are determined by using a ratio formula in accordance with the population. Comparing Halifax with other cities we have more cabs per population than any other city of comparative size. Most decisions of this nature are made by their Taxi Committee Boards or Commissions and that's why it is necessary to keep our present Limo-Taxi Advisory Committee in place, with necessary changes, so the stake holders can have more input into the decision making process and that the committee be given more authority, so that council does not have to deal with the day to day operations of the taxi industry.
Image is a very important factor in today's society and the image of the Taxi Driver has not always been a good one. But because of limitations and regulations coming about in the Industry our Image has changed dramatically as drivers have a better self-esteem and drive nicer vehicles and have a cleaner appearance in most cases.
LIMITATIONS offers the industrious driver a sense of security in regards to a consistent income which could enable him/her to use as a form of collateral to a financial institution. It would give the driver a sense of dignity and they could very quickly become career orientated with a professional attitude towards their work.
It has been proven in a number of studies as late as 2006 - Schaller Consultants- that deregulation of the Taxi Industry is not necessarily the best approach to resolve the shortage of available taxis upon the public's request. It was concluded in their findings that by lifting limitations that more taxis, as the result of a "FREE MARKET" concept as suggested by some, does not mean a better and quicker response, but it would lead to a surplus of cabs without work and cause deterioration of both the driver and their vehicles.
In some cases the number of cabs in a community were increased or decreased based on the market which can easily be dealt with in this community of HRM. One has to realize that things have changed over the last 12 years since the last presentation from a Taxi group which was submitted to Regional Counsel in 1995.
The cost of being an owner/driver of a Taxi has substantially increased. Not only the cost of their vehicles, but gas, the up-keep, mechanical repairs, the hourly rates and computerized technology, office rent, Insurance and etc.
Even other costs in their personal life and more so if they have families. Most drivers live from day -to- day with no hope of any financial support at the end of their career. No retirement plan, no medical plan unless they have a working partner or spouse who are eligible for both.
I request that limitations stay in place so drivers can maintain a certain quality of life and provide a high standard of service to the Citizens of H.R.M.
I heard that by removing zones the Citizens of H.R.M. would be provided with a better service and a quicker response. One has to remember why Zones were established in the first place. The reason being was they didn't want the drivers livelihood in those areas, to be affected by more cabs than what was required in the zone and that the citizens in the zones would have taxis available to service them and council agreed to this format. However, now that the Halifax Zone has required most of the Liquor bars and Hotels in H.R.M. and the owners feel they are inadequately serviced because of the large disbursement of patrons during late night and early morning hours and that the Taxi Drivers should bare the brunt of the lack of transportation not the owners of the establishments or Halifax Transit.
Upon examining the situation I feel that there are a couple of alternatives that could be explored which would not require the removal of the zone structure, which is also used in other major cities throughout Canada and the United States and elsewhere worldwide.
1). First and foremost, THE PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTEM, perhaps their hours of operation could be extended or special shifts be considered between the hours of the 12:00 am and 4:00 am during the days of Friday and Saturday.
2): The downtown business and Hotel associations could obtain funds and pay for extended hours of the Transit system to accommodate their influx of patrons.
3): HRM could subsidize the installation of cameras and or shields for the night drivers.
4): HRM could consider pricing differentials for the night drivers.
Myself and other drivers realize that the citizens of H.R.M. deserve the best service available and do not wish to be neglected in their Zones because of some unhappy customers in another zone. Making unwarranted and unnecessary changes to accommodate a few.
I request that the alternatives be considered and leave the Zones remaining, this would not only effect the drivers income but provide a less than adequate service to each zone.
The owners of roof lights ( number assigned to an individual to operate a taxi in the Municipality HRM) in the taxi industry as previously mentioned do not have a medical plan or retirement plan to fall back on in the case of an injury or sickness therefore, some time ago they were allowed to lease the light or rent their light and vehicle to another person who held a taxi drivers license to help them to obtain some financial support until they were able to return to work. However, because of a clause or lack of, other owners took advantages and began leasing their roof lights for financial gain which was not the intent in the first place.
Because of the present situation the drivers who now lease feel their rights under the Charter are being exploited and that they are victims of discrimination. This may or may not be the case because each driver knew that they were on a waiting list when they obtained their Taxi license and when their name reached the top they would be offered a roof light. Keep in mind the drivers who leased were partially responsible for the increase in leasing prices now established because of the bidding that went on. Greed overcame the real purpose for leasing/renting a roof light. Now the ones leasing want to continue to drive and make this a career but do not want to pay the price anymore, to stay in the Taxi Industry.
Most drivers in HRM, realize the situation and appreciate the problem, however, I do not feel that the Taxi owners , who provided the opportunity to these drivers should be punished to the degree that they have to give up their roof lights. They should be allowed to carry on with their agreements or have an adequate time period to put their vehicle under their light and be allowed to rent the unit to another driver. The owners who do not wish to do this then the roof light should be offered to the next person on the list. Eventually, leasing will cease to exist, through attrition.
GOVERNMENT AND THE TAXI INDUSTRY:
Comments have been made that the Taxi Industry has no place in Municipal affairs other than to make regulations for the industry. Well councillors this is not the case. The Government of Nova Scotia and the Municipalities do have a responsibility to protect the viability of an industry and that is why the Provincial Government handed that responsibility onto the Municipal Government by incorporating it into the Motor Vehicle Act under section 305 paragraph 2, where it states " It authorizes the municipalities to limit the number of persons licensed to transport for hire, passengers or goods".
The Government of Nova Scotia has just recently placed the Taxi Industry and small retail businesses under their umbrella and introduced a Code of Practice to be followed by all those concerned relating to Occupational Health and Safety issues.
Apparently, other government agencies are not of the same opinion as some of our city officials because limitations and regulation have been applied to other industries, such as, Agriculture, Bus/Courier Industry, Fishing Industry, Physician an the list goes on.
The Municipal Government has also placed restrictions on :
1.) Adult entertainment.
2.) Homes and Apartment complexes (Zoning -bylaws)
3.) Location of Industries
Municipal Government is important in the Taxi Industry and is required to protect the viability and livelihood of the Taxi owners and drivers through the use of limitations and regulations. Deregulation should never be considered an option.
In closing, Myself and many other owners and drivers in HRM are asking each and every councillor to carefully consider all the comments in this report because we believe it is your responsibility to make sure that each and every owner and driver in the Taxi industry can make a viable living for themselves and their families.