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Permits stir debate

Council approves amendments to taxi bylaw

Malcolm Gorrill
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 21/01) - Changes are coming for taxi drivers within Inuvik.

As of March 1, 2002 driver permits and vehicle permits are to be combined into one.

Town council approved the bylaw changes last week. Coun. George Doolittle is chair of the taxi commission.

"With the new bylaw, the driver and the vehicle are united together. There is no driver permit any more per se," Doolittle explained.

One issue brought up during the lengthy debate on the issue was that some drivers leave town for some time, and have temporary or casual drivers operate their vehicles in their place.

"The purpose of the proposed change in the bylaw was to alleviate a condition of long-term absentee operations. That was one of the main issues, as brought forward to the taxi commission by the drivers -- with the idea in mind to free up permits if necessary, and also to control the number of permits available," Doolittle said. He said the changes will create an owner-operator situation. He noted the large number of taxi drivers who showed up for the Dec. 10 meeting, and contributed to a 90-minute discussion on the issue that evening.

"The purpose of the bylaw reflects the decisions made at the last taxi commission meeting. It's fairly obvious that there is still no real agreement between all of the taxi drivers."

The town has issued 26 taxi permits, but for about five years council's policy has been to reduce this number to 20 through attrition.

The new bylaw will keep a provision in which, after a three-month period in which a driver does not operate their vehicle without a good reason, that the town's senior administrative officer has the power to revoke the permit.

Doolittle pointed out this provision has never been invoked.

The three-month clause provoked much of the discussion among drivers. Amier Suliman pointed out he had not been able to drive for some time, until recently, because of an accident. He suggested the town issue part-time driver permits.

United Taxi owner Abdalla Mohamed also addressed council, saying that they need casual drivers from time-to-time.

"We decide when we have to have casual drivers, and we decide not to have a casual driver, based on our need," Mohamed said.

"Leave the internal policy to us," he said.

"Keep it at 26, but don't put restrictions on who is going to be behind the wheel," Mohamed said.

"We are asking for a permanent solution."

Providing jobs locally

Mayor Peter Clarkson said in an interview that the changes are to put an end to a practice in which some casual drivers pay other drivers to use their permits while they're out of town.

"The idea is to get people who have the permits living in the community," Clarkson said.

"We're trying to provide jobs for those people who live in the community, not for those people who want to live in Edmonton or other places."