Permits will continue to be required of city’s taxi drivers

Taxi drivers will continue to require chauffeur permits, despite pleas from a local taxi company for a change in city policy.

In February, Ray Lustig, owner of Bee-Line Taxi, asked city council to consider scrapping its permit requirement and be more like Courtenay which does not require chauffeur licences.

Lustig said the city’s permitting process, which requires a Police Information Check, has discouraged potential drivers, making it difficult to hire new employees.

“So few are willing to endure the expense and indignity of being treated like suspects in a criminal investigation in order to drive a cab in the only city on Vancouver Island that enforces such draconian policy,” Lustig told city council at a meeting in February.

The city charges $42.80 for the chauffeur’s permit and Police Information Check. If, during the Police Information Check, an applicant’s gender and date of birth match with a pardoned sex offender, then the applicant must pay $25 for fingerprinting.

Lustig, however, said he has had drivers who have to pay for fingerprinting each year when they renew their chauffeur’s permit.

He asked council to consider a less onerous process.

Carrie Jacobs, the city’s municipal manager, reported back to council last week that Campbell River’s process is similar to most other B.C. municipalities’.

“The majority of the detachments contacted charge the Police Information Check fee as set out in their respective municipal bylaws, and all of those detachments except for Campbell River charge the same fee for renewing permits,” Jacobs said.

She added that she consulted 20 other B.C. municipalities and found that most, including Nanaimo, North Cowichan and Port Alberni follow the same practise as Campbell River – charging for a Police Information Check on the initial chauffeur permit application – but, unlike Campbell River, charge for the check again upon renewal of that permit.

Campbell River charges $40 for the Police Information Check as part of the chauffeur permitting process while the City of Langley charges $50, Mission charges $65 and North Cowichan charges $50. All three municipalities are comparable in size to Campbell River and all three charge a renewal fee.

Nanaimo, however, only charges $25 for Police Information Checks while Port Alberni charges $30.

Jacobs also clarified that fingerprinting is not required for all drivers.

“Only if you get that match in the system, your name, your birthdate and gender (to a pardoned sex offender)” do you have to be fingerprinted.

“If you are a match, unfortunately, you’re a match for life,” Jacobs said.

She said the rationale behind the Police Information Check is to ensure the safety of the community.

“As chauffeurs have unsupervised access to the vulnerable sector (ie. children or vulnerable adults) through their work, a vulnerable sector check is conducted as part of the (Police Information Check) process,” Jacobs said. “Staff is recommending that chauffeur permits remain in place for the welfare of the public and citizens of the municipality.”

Council agreed and at last week’s Monday council meeting voted to retain chauffeur permits, although with an extended expiration date – from one year to two years.