by:  Dave Heintzman

Halifax Regional Council approved a 60 per cent increase in taxi licences amid sweeping changes to the taxi industryabout 8 hours ago by:  Dave Heintzman

In the wake of Regional Council’s decision to proceed with sweeping changes to the taxi industry, the President of the Halifax Taxi Drivers’ Association has stepped down.

While speaking on The Rick Howe Show, Dave Buffett confirmed his resignation after he took a hardline against the proposed changes, even threatening legal action against HRM if they moved forward.

Council voted 15 – 1 in favour of increasing the cap on taxi licences to 1,600, up from the current 1,000, as well as approving other changes like regulating ride hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

The sole municipal representative to vote against the proposal was Councillor Stephen Adams (Spryfield-Sambro-Prospect Road), who also moved an amendment to limit the increase to 50 licences – that was defeated.

Another motion by Councillor Russell Walker (Halifax-Bedford Basin West) to cut the proposed increase in half to only 300 licences was also defeated.

Councillor Matt Whitman said he still isn’t sure what the right number is.

“So I kinda feel like we’re throwing up our hands on this, we’re either gonna settle on 50 because it feels like the right thing and we don’t want to upset the taxi industry, or we’re gonna plow ahead with the number staff recommends, like 600,” says Whitman. “It’s like throwing a dart at a dartboard, we don’t know the number.”

Meanwhile, municipal staffer Sally Christie explained to Council 600 is the appropriate number, as it will help address an almost 500 person waitlist, and gender diversity issues.

Buffett says this addition of licences won’t improve service, but will instead require longer shifts.

“Just more sleep deprived drivers, so the more hours you work, the less alert you are and so on, and you know the drivers are gonna make their money, we’re gonna make our money, if we can’t do it in 12, we’ll do it in 14, 16, or 18,” says Buffett. “But we’re gonna do it.”

Association board member Al Deslaurier echoed Buffett’s comments, adding all municipal staff had to do to help reduce the 500 person waitlist was to open zones, which they did, saying it is unnecessary to add a further 600 licences on top of that.

Al Deslaurier

“Some of the people on the list are people that have Sackville roof lights, and have Dartmouth roof lights, and they’re on the list because they wanted Halifax roof lights, but once you open the zones they don’t want Halifax roof lights now because their roof lights are good.”

NEWS 95.7 previously reported that only 25 of the existing 1,000 taxi licences are operated by women, a figure of 2.5 per cent.

Councillor Richard Zurawski felt the rest of council should be voting in favour of the 600 licence increase.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 600, or 500, or 300, we’ve got to continue an evolutionary process to get to the point where we can start dealing with the disruption that’s coming,” says Zurawski. “And I think that I don’t have a solution to this, other than more study, and it’s a case of if you’re making changes on the fly, it’s garbage in, garbage out.”

Deslaurier says while Buffett had threatened to pursue legal action, that’s not an avenue he intends to go down.

“You just can’t fight this, it’s just too big,” says Deslaurier. “What do you do? You spend 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars to fight it and still lose, how do you beat the government?”

“It’s impossible,” he concludes.

Deslaurier said at this stage, he doesn’t think there is anything they can do other than wait for a year to see the mess he believes will unfold, and then try to persuade municipal government to make changes.

Council also voted unanimously to seek legislative changes from the province to allow HRM to subsidize accessible taxis.

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