Taking a taxi? Bring a mask. Quebec's new rules now in effect

Champlain Taxi president worries drivers will be punished unfairly for anti-mask clients.

Champlain Taxi president worries regulations will punish drivers unfairly for anti-mask clients

George Boussios, president of Champlain Taxi, says drivers are ready with their own masks and sanitizer, but the customer base isn't what it once was. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

The two-week grace period for transit users to get used to Quebec's mandatory mask regulations ended Monday. That means that passengers on the province's buses, metros and taxis can now be refused service if they aren't wearing a face covering. 

Under Quebec public health requirements, any person over 12 who does not have a medical condition must cover their face in transit. 

Taxi drivers are ready for the new rules, according to the president of Champlain Taxi, George Boussios.

"They all have masks. They all have sanitizers in their car," said Boussios, adding that most cars also have dividers.

"We have been giving out washable face masks to our drivers."

But Boussios is concerned that if passengers refuse to obey the new regulations, it might have an impact on drivers who are already struggling to make ends meet. 

Montreal office towers are still empty, tourism is dead and bars aren't doing much better at night, he said. That's why Boussios is operating at only 50 per cent.

"It hasn't been easy," said Boussios. "It's a struggle just to make your rent."

He has seen a small uptick in clients as many fear taking public transit, he said, but now he's worried drivers will get fined if anti-mask clients remove their face covering in the vehicle.

Regardless, André Poisson, head of the Bureau du taxi de Montréal (BTM), welcomed Quebec's new regulation in a statement Monday, saying it will "undoubtedly help increase the level of safety of drivers and their customers."

Since July 13, Quebec has made masks mandatory for anyone riding on public transit, but there was a two-week grace period before enforcement began Monday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

For several weeks now, there has been an effort to raise awareness by the BTM, and since this spring, financial help has been offered to drivers to build partitions in their cars and keep their cars clean.

RTC drivers say they have no means to enforce rules

In Quebec City, drivers with the Réseau de transport de la Capitale (RTC) say they cannot enforce the mask regulations. 

Hélène Fortin, president of the union representing the drivers, is concerned there will be altercations between anti-maskers and drivers.

"People who don't have a mask will still be able to get on board. The driver does not have the power to leave someone on the sidewalk," said Fortin.

As it stands, RTC drivers are expected to call the station and an inspector will be deployed. If the rider still refuses, police will be asked to intervene.

"The government tells us that we have the obligation to prohibit access, then the RTC directive is: let people in, we will intervene," she said.

With files from Matt D'Amours and Radio-Canada

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