Edmonton taxi, limo operators urge city to waive licence fees during pandemic
'Grad has been cancelled months ago, festivals have all been cancelled this summer'
Limousine operators in Edmonton are urging the city to waive all licence fees this year, as business has nearly ground to a halt.
Several representatives of taxi and limousine companies appeared at city hall Tuesday to convince councillors on the community and public services committee to give them a break.
The situation during the COVID-19 pandemic is dire, said Suzan Burtic, owner of Legends Limousine.
"It's been hard times for all of us; we've struggled," Burtic said.
Legends had to offer refunds in the spring and summer after graduation and wedding events were cancelled, she said.
"We are asking you now — we are pleading, we are begging — please waive the fees this year for the vehicle-for-hire industry."
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City administration is proposing to waive half the fees for dispatch and vehicles, which would cost the city $330,000, a committee report said.
A dispatch licence costs operators $1,056, while a vehicle licence runs $423.
Drivers and companies that have already paid 2020 fees will receive a 50-per-cent credit on their 2021 fees.
Also waiving drivers licence fees and per-trip fees would bring the city's cost to $530,000.
John Waterman with Black Gold Limousine told the committee he's getting 10 per cent of his regular business.
"I hope that you guys understand that a lot of us will close if we're not given help at every angle we can," Waterman said. "A $2,000 fee this year, I just can't afford to pay that, I have no money to pay it."
The speakers also noted that Calgary has waived its vehicle-for-hire fees for 2020.
Coun. Mike Nickel, said the city do the same, saying it's "not only required but necessary for the industry's survival."
The city has $2.2 million in the vehicle-for-hire reserve, which is not a taxpayer-funded reserve, that could be used to compensate the lost revenue, Nickel suggested.
Coun. Jon Dziadyk proposed the city waive all the fees for limousines.
"No one's renting out party limousines because you can't really assemble a group of people in the back of them," Dziadyk said. "Then there's no events to go to.
"Grad has been cancelled months ago, festivals have all been cancelled this summer."
Council asked administration to analyze scenarios of waiving vehicle-for-hire fees by 25, 50, 75 and 100 per cent and report back by Oct. 5.