Almost seven years after amending its taxicab bylaw to require taxi licence applicants to take a training course as well as an English language proficiency exam, the City of Thompson has taken steps to produce its own course to administer.
Council approved a resolution at its Feb. 1 meeting to hire Catherine Sims-Cogle to develop a course for taxi drivers at a cost of $3,000 and to receive $1,000 for each such course she administers.
“The main focus of the course is to provide the Taxi Operators an understanding of the City of Thompson’s Municipal Taxi-cab bylaw, customer service and road safety,” said recreation and community services director Sonya Wiseman in a memo to mayor and council. “The position of Taxi Course Facilitator has been vacant for over 1 year, with the License Inspector filling in on a short-term basis, until the role was able to be filled externally.”
The course the licence inspector offered was based on one owned by the previous taxi course facilitator, who was from Winnipeg and provided his own materials but no longer offers that service.
Once the new course is developed, the city will have material that it owns to use going forward.
Nama Sandhu, owner of North Star Taxi, says the vacancy in the role of taxi course facilitator has left him short of drivers.
Sandhu claims the course hasn’t been offered for over two years and that there are 20 would-be drivers waiting to take it after having completed other requirements such as a criminal record check and obtaining a Class 4 licence.
Because fo the delay, he says, some of the potential drivers will have to get criminal record checks done again because they expire after one year.
“We are losing business,” says Sandhu, who needs about 30 drivers at a time to ensure all his company’s cabs are running 24 hours a day. “I’m losing the revenue, people are losing the revenue for how many months?”
Sandhu says he has contacted the city manager and licence inspector regarding this issue but no progress has been made.
The taxi training course was added to the taxi bylaw in August 2014. Initially the city had wanted to put a cap on the number of taxi licences in the city after discovering that around 50 of the 140 licensed taxi drivers in the city at that time weren’t driving cabs. They consulted with the taxi industry, which opposed a cap but agreed to classify drivers into three categories – casual, part-time and full-time, with minimum and maximum hours or days of work for the first two categories and a minimum number of hours per month for those classified as full-time. While the seven-month consultation was going on, no new taxi driver licences were issued.
The fee for the taxi drivers’ training course is $503 for the first attempt and $63 for a retest. The English assessment also costs $63.