Duran hearing
Taxi bylaw changes pending as commission hears case

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Dec 18/98) - Taxi commission members heard at a Dec. 10 hearing that they would face the ire of both current and prospective taxi drivers if they vote to accept a taxi permit application from Unal Duran.

Town of Inuvik senior administrative officer Don Howden said he turned down Duran's permit application because it was in conflict with a bylaw town council passed in 1996 to reduce the number of Inuvik cabs to 20 with Co-op taxi and United taxi operating 10 cars each.

Co-op taxi driver Wayne Smith spoke to the commission to urge them to not only decline Duran's application but to follow the intent of council's 1996 decision and stop allowing people who own Inuvik taxi permits but who live outside Inuvik to keep renewing them. "People flew back last February," he said of non-driving permit holders.

"People flew in from Yellowknife and down south -- came in, stayed two or three days, renewed their permit, then back out and put somebody else in their car."

Smith said currently about 10 taxi drivers use somebody else's permit. If council were to stop allowing permits to be transferable, they will reach the goal of 20 active cabs in short order.

"Once it's down to 20, these people who are left over can put their name into council and as a vacancy comes up then they'll get preference or however it goes to get a cab permit," Smith told the commission.

For council to vote to break its bylaw to accommodate Duran would "open a can of worms," Smith says, because dozens of others are waiting patiently for their chance at a permit.

Duran, who has driven a taxi in Toronto, Anchorage and Inuvik was ineligible to hold an Inuvik permit at the time council voted to freeze new permits because of a court order stemming from a bribery conviction.

If the commission suggests to council that it formally rejects Duran's application at a committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 11, Duran says he might pay the $300 to appeal or go on a hunger strike.

If all efforts fail, he will consider going back to Toronto or Anchorage.

Duran says he is $10,000 in debt to Mastercard from living in Inuvik for the past year not working.

Why do so many people want to drive taxis in Inuvik?

"For me it's been a living for 20 years. I was here a long time ago. There's quite a few of us who have been here for 20 years," says Smith.

For Duran, he says he knows many Inuvik people, has friends here and knows the streets well.

Smith says driving nets drivers close to $30,000 per year partly because of hefty $214-per-week dispatch fees, $2000-per-year insurance fees and other vehicle expenses.

And despite all this, "fares aren't exorbitant with a fare being $4.50 from one end of town to the other."