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City councillor charged over taxicab mechanical safety issues

Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson will appear in court on Jan. 16 to answer to charges related to his ownership of a taxicab plate.
Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson will appear in court on Jan. 16 because he owns a plate that's on a taxicab with mechanical safety issues. Ferguson says he is arm's length and leases the plate to Hamilton Cab. (John Rieti/CBC)

An Ancaster councillor will appear in court on Jan. 16 to answer to charges related to his ownership of a taxi cab plate.

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson owns a plate on a Hamilton Cab vehicle with alleged mechanical defects. The charges are part of a recent city enforcement blitz to crack down on the safety of local taxis.

Ferguson says his ownership is arm’s length from the cab and doesn’t know the nature of the mechanical defects. He doesn’t know which vehicle is associated with the plate, he said, or how he ended up included in the summons. He leases the plates to Hamilton Cab.

These blitzes continue to show that the condition of our taxis still require attention.- Ken Leendertse, Hamilton director of licencing

Ferguson a shareholder in a corporation that owns four plates, he said. But he’s not even sure if that’s why he’s included in the charge.

“These are all the questions I have,” said Ferguson, who is also chair of the Hamilton Police Services board.

“I’ve never experienced this before. Never before have they charged a plate owner.”

Including plate owners in the charge is "a recent development from an enforcement perspective," said Ken Leendertse, the city's director of licensing. In the past two years, the city has boosted its enforcement of taxi cabs. 

Revised enforcement strategy

Plate owners are now included in charges as part of a "progressive enforcement strategy," he said in an email. The court will decide whether the plate owner — in this case, Ferguson — is responsible. The court will also determine the fine. Plate owners are typically charged a maximum of $1,000, Leenderste said.

The city has a number of standards for licensed cabs, including that vehicles must meet safety standards under the Highway Traffic Act, be mounted with GPS, and have a neat interior and exterior that is in good repair.

Under bylaw 07-170, the bylaw to license various businesses, the plate owner, driver, cab owner and broker are responsible for the safety of the fleet, the city says.

The city started its crackdown in 2013 when it warned drivers about infractions, but not all complied, Leenderste said. The city responded by removing taxi plates and putting vehicles out of service until it ensured they were safe. 

Even with a number of taxis taken off the road, the city was still concerned, he said. In 2014, it started charging the owners and plate owners of taxi cabs as well as the drivers. 

The city has held "many safety blitzes" with police, the Ministry of Transportation and its licensing staff, he said. 

"These blitzes continue to show that the condition of our taxis still require attention."

Ferguson said he purchased a number of taxicab plates in the 1970s and 1980s.

Whatever mechanical safety issues there are, he said, they have little to do with him.

“In my view, they should be dealing with the owner of the vehicle under the Highway Traffic Act.”