Strathmore loses 'legal' taxis as bylaw war escalates
Southern Alberta town of 14,000 currently has no licensed taxis on its roads
The town of Strathmore, Alta., has no taxis on the road any more — at least, none that are legal.
It's the latest skirmish in what taxi company bosses and drivers in the town east of Calgary describe as a war over a requirement for all drivers to take first aid courses, which is part of a new taxi bylaw.
A quick drive around town tells you cabs are still operating in defiance of the bylaw.
"If they are operating, they are operating illegally," said Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule.
"They didn't come in to renew their driver permits and as a result they weren't able to get their business licenses, and the end result is they are operating without permits and business licenses," said Fule.
'We've got a war going on'
The bylaw was approved a year ago, bringing in some new rules, including inspections for vehicles, criminal background checks and making sure cabs were smoke-free.
But drivers took real exception to the requirement for a first aid course, which would essentially be paid for by the town.
Drivers say being expected to be trained in first aid was one requirement too many, that it would compromise their safety and carry too many legal implications.
On Monday, the taxi companies and drivers weren't talking. However, they were more outspoken in January, before the new bylaw kicked in.
"We've got a war going on," Martin DePuter, owner of Strathmore Taxi and Economy Taxi, said then. "I feel that this thing is going to endanger my taxi drivers and my business."
Taxi users worry about losing 'important service'
Residents who rely on taxis are now worried about losing their only means of getting around.
"It's important. I quite often take a taxi from my farm into Strathmore and back home again, to do shopping and business," said Sofus Gram, moments after stepping out of an unlicensed taxi outside one of the town's supermarkets.
Gram said he wasn't aware the taxi he was in was running illegally.
"It's an important service and I really hope it stays here," he said. "I guess I would have to find some other means, maybe hire someone to take me back and forth."
Town will start ticketing drivers
Fule says the town will now start ticketing and enforcing its bylaw, targeting drivers who are still taking fares.
"We're hoping they'll comply, we want them to be successful. We want these local companies to stay but we want them to comply with the bylaw," said Fule.
At the same time as appealing to the town's taxi companies, Fule said he's all ears when it comes to approaches from individuals and new companies willing to comply with the taxi bylaw and fill the gap in Strathmore's taxi market.
"If a new company wants to come in, we have a great market, there's a lot of people here. If a new company wants to follow the bylaws, we'd be more than happy," said Fule.
He said he just wants residents to be safe as they get around, in clean, well-maintained, smoke-free vehicles with drivers trained in basic first aid, to give drivers some extra tools.
"We never expected them to be EMS people. This is basic first aid," said Fule.
Fule said he's already heard from one company now crunching the numbers and looking into the feasibility of setting up a new, and legal, taxi company in the town.