Bid to name taxi committee abandoned by town council

February 4, 2016   ·   0 Comments

It seems as though every time the issue of taxis comes to Orangeville Council, tempers flare and arguments ensue.

Monday night’s Council meeting was supposed to see the passing of a bylaw which would make the taxi committee an official committee of Council, but after a large amount of heated discussion, some shouting and accusations of bias, the motion was removed.

The committee was formed after concerns from some residents and business owners in town were brought to council about the current bylaw being outdated, allowing for what they said was a monopoly of the taxi business by Call-A-Cab/Orangeville Taxi.

Following these concerns, it was announced last fall that Council would accept applications for interested parties to join the committee, which would review the concerns as well as the current bylaw and make recommendations to Council.

Following the closure of the applications, local taxi drivers employed by Call A Cab/Orangeville Taxi asked Council to re-open the application process, as they felt it was unfair they had not been able to apply by the original deadline. Council agreed to extend the application period, and voted to approve members of the committee early this year.

Susie Faria, of Call A Cab/Orangeville Taxi, spoke during public question period, accusing Council of choosing a biased committee, saying Mayor Jeremy Williams had initially promised that representatives of both  Call A Cab and Orangeville Taxi would be on the committee.

“Most of these people have voiced concerns with the current taxi bylaw,” she said. “It is up to the Town to ensure that all committee members are neutral. We want to see a new committee selected.”

She also responded to residents’ complaints  on Facebook that the current bylaw allows for a monopoly, which she said is untrue.

“The Town owns the licence places, so the current bylaw is not a monopoly,” said Ms. Faria. “We pay $136,000 a year in insurance, employ close to 40 people in town, and spend $15,000 a year in plate fees. These two companies have over $1 million invested in this business.”

Mayor Williams explained that two people on the committee met the criteria of being either current or former taxi drivers, and that despite not being part of the committee, staff and owners of Call A Cab/Orangeville Taxi would still have the opportunity to have their thoughts and concerns heard.

“The Taxi Committee will take all input from you and all other members,” said the mayor. “I reminded everyone when we last spoke that public committees, by their nature, get public input. The committee members that were picked were picked to be exactly what you said, a fair and balanced voice.”

Councillor Sylvia Bradley said she felt what Ms. Faria had said was accurate – that the committee was to have included members from the active taxi community on the committee. “It appears to me that there isn’t fair representation on the committee if we don’t have an owner or an operator involved.”

Councillor Bradley was not present for the selection of the committee, as she was away when the meeting resumés and applications were reviewed.

“I feel we chose the members wisely and a balance was struck,” Mayor Williams said. “We have a longstanding issue with taxi service in this town. Is it because of the bylaw or other reasons? I don’t know, and that’s why we struck a committee.

“There are two members who either operate a taxi in Orangeville, or previously did. There were members that applied who, based on things which have happened, didn’t think they would fit on the committee. But there are still members of the public and the businesses who are able to comment in the process, and I encourage them to do so.”

Ross Taylor, one of the taxi owners at Call A Cab/Orangeville Taxi, was very vocal about his concerns, saying the Mayor was not being honest in contending taxi drivers were represented on the committee.

“You just stated there are taxi drivers on the committee, and there are none,” said Mr. Taylor. “There are no taxi drivers on the committee, there are zero. We put 50,000 constituents of this town in our cars. We deserve to be represented on this committee, Mr. Mayor. Thousands and thousands of dollars are invested. We want to know who those taxi drivers are, and why we are not on this committee.”

Despite his demands to have the persons identified, the Mayor was advised by the Town Clerk that it would not be appropriate for him to reveal the details, as their driving, either current or past, was outside of their regular jobs, and it was not for the town to identify.

While Call A Cab/Orangeville Taxi representatives were clearly hoping for a resolution and a change before leaving, Council opted to move on to the agenda. It was evident the local taxi drivers/owners were not pleased with the decision, as many loud, angry discussions could be heard from the hallway well into the rest of the Council meeting.

Although earlier reports indicated that the Taxi Committee had been disbanded by Council, Mayor Williams said in an interview on Tuesday afternoon this was not entirely true.

“Any committees must become incorporated via a bylaw to be an official committee of Council,” said the Mayor. “To become a committee of council, you have to have an enabling bylaw. The long and short of the issue was that some members of council feel there should be changes to the members of the committee.”

Toward the end of the meeting, when Council votes on current bylaws that are before them, Council chose to remove the Taxi Committee from the bylaw amendment, which consisted of multiple committees that needed to be incorporated.

“It wasn’t disbanded, it just wasn’t enabled as a committee of Council,” said Mayor Williams. “Now we are weighing our options as far as the best way to move forward. If the members of the committee who were picked wish to pursue this and meet as a neighbourhood concern group, rather than a committee of council, they are still able to review the issues and the current bylaw and report to council with a proposed plan.”

He added that theoretically, at the next council meeting, they could still vote to pass a bylaw which would enable the group to become a committee of council.

“I am not likely to move that motion,” he said. “I feel it was a well-balanced committee that we selected. But Call A Cab came to Council voicing their concerns very loudly, and some members of Council felt we needed to include someone from those companies. The taxi issue is still a problem, it still needs to be fixed, and I am still going to do whatever I can to fix it.”

By Tabitha Wells

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.