‘It’s going to hurt me. Even now, as it is, business is pretty shaky’

Cab drivers Jean-Paul Gallant, Ali Roshani (centre), and Darshan Virk (right) discuss a possible rise in taxi insurance rates. (CBC)

Taxi drivers in Halifax are urging the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board not to allow taxi insurance rates to rise, arguing higher rates would be too expensive for cabbies and the people who rely on taxis for transportation.

The Facility Association, a body that provides high-risk automobile insurance for almost all of the taxis in Nova Scotia, has applied to the board to raise taxi insurance rates by 25 per cent.

In 2017, the association applied to raise rates by 25.3 per cent. Last November, the board allowed a smaller increase of 3.1 per cent.

“I don’t think they should increase anything. What happened in one year? Why are they coming back again?” said Darshan Virk, the president of the United Cab Drivers Association of Halifax.

Darshan Virk is the president of the United Cab Drivers Association of Halifax. (CBC)

“I think they’re just appealing the decision of the last time, is the way I look at it.”

Virk said he represents about 300 of the city’s drivers, and many of his members are writing to the board to ask that the application be rejected.

In its decision last year, the board noted that the Facility Association’s 2017 application for an increase followed “closely on the heels of an increase that was effective October 1, 2015, which saw rates rise by 24.1 per cent.”

“They keep on asking for an increase every second year. I think that’s too much for the public and the taxi industry to bear,” said Virk.

Annual review

David Simpson, the president and CEO of the Facility Association, was unavailable for an interview but provided comments by email.

“We review our rating programmes annually for all of the significant classes of auto insurance provided through Facility Association,” Simpson wrote. “The rate application arose as a result of that review process.

“As for the amount of the increase, our actuaries are of the view that it’s what [is] required to cover the costs of providing the insurance (actually, the actuarial indication is a little higher).”

Simpson said his organization respects that the board might have a different view.

In its filing to the board last month, the Facility Association wrote that it insures about 1,360 taxis in Nova Scotia. The average premium is $3,288.

The association estimated that if it received the requested 25 per cent increase in rates, the average premium per vehicle would increase by $658.

Vlado Ostarcevic, a taxi driver in Halifax for 35 years with a clean driving record, said he pays about $1,800 per year. He expects to see that rise by about $200 if the increase is approved.

Vladomir Ostarcevic has been a cab driver in Halifax for 35 years. (CBC)

“It’s going to hurt me. Even now, as it is, business is pretty shaky. Every penny you take out of your pocket, it’s not very healthy. I’ll have to find cuts to survive,” he said.

Virk says if costs are increased, taxi drivers will seek a rate increase to cover it.

“In the end, the public ends up paying for it. Senior citizens, they’re on a fixed income. A lot of them can’t have their own vehicles. They depend on taxis. So I think it’s not the best thing to do.”

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