West Nipissing starts the meter on taxi by-law

West Nipissing council has decided to create a comprehensive taxi by-law to ensure “the public is protected in all instances” when they call for a ride, noted mayor Kathleen Thorne-Rochon.

Before passing the law, council will provide an opportunity for public input with an in-person meeting and an online meeting for those who cannot attend.

The dates for those have yet to be set, but council noted input from the public will be much appreciated. The municipality has a taxi by-law on the books, however, last year, the previous council acknowledged the by-law is out of date.

“The current taxi by-law had several gaps,” municipal staff explained in a memo to council, “and may no longer adequately address the needs of the community.”

The main issue? The by-law doesn’t take into account cars for hire, the Uber and Lyft style of services that didn’t exist when that by-law was passed.

This new one will cover those services, and ensure the safety of the vehicle, adequate insurance coverage, and a criminal record check for any drivers operating a taxi or vehicle for hire in the municipality.

The issue came to council in February 2022 when council was notified that licenses for the taxi operating in West Nipissing had not been renewed by the deadline. Without the documents, the taxi owner had 120 days before the licence was revoked, staff explained in the council memo.

See: Waiting on a cab in West Nipissing? It’s going to take a while because there aren’t any

In June of 2022, council requested staff gather the information that could be useful for updating the municipal taxi by-law, and on September 6, the clerk presented a copy of the North Bay bylaw “as an example of a by-law that regulates vehicles for hire and private transportation companies.”

North Bay’s by-law provided a launching point to help West Nipissing modernize its by-law. Council of the day gave itself two options—create a “minimalist bylaw” that would “regulate little” or “proceed with a comprehensive bylaw” that would “regulate all.”

So explained the municipal staff, and the current council wholeheartedly agreed to choose the comprehensive by-law during its last meeting. It won’t come overnight, the mayor cautioned. “it’s not a quick thing,” she said. “We’re not going to have a taxi by-law in two meetings.”

Council is also mindful that “the more you regulate something, the more it’s going to cost,” as Mayor Thorne-Rochon stated, but the consensus at the table is the eventual cost of enforcement and administration will be worth it to keep passengers safe. “Taking care of our residents,” is the primary concern, the mayor emphasized.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca