Proposed bylaw would govern behaviour of drivers-for-hire, passengers in Winnipeg

Winnipeg’s largest taxi companies are hoping city council will delay changes that would address driver and passenger behaviour.

“The association, to be clear, categorically supports passenger safety. It agrees that provisions that establish clear procedures for driver conduct are for everyone’s benefit,” said Benjamin Hecht, a lawyer from Pitblado Law who’s representing the Winnipeg Taxi Community Association.

“But — and it’s a big but — both rules and the enforcement mechanism must be fair.”

The association comprises Winnipeg’s largest taxi companies, including Unicity Taxi and Duffy’s Taxi.

City council will vote Thursday on proposed changes for drivers of taxis, vehicles-for-hire and limos. Part of the changes include a $250 fine for sexually harassing, insulting, abusing or threatening a passenger.

The association and its lawyers say the bylaw is written so those fines could be given without an investigation, or by relying on video and audio surveillance of the cab, and not asking those involved what happened.

Hecht told council that fining “small business owners” without a chance to give their perspective is unfair.

“We know that statistics show that being a taxi driver is a dangerous occupation. Driver safety is a matter of key import that needs to be considered along with the importance of passenger safety,” Hecht said.

Hecht is asking city council not to approve the bylaw as currently written, and for more conversations with city staff to make sure the bylaw supports both drivers and passengers.

City staff have said they don’t want to delay putting this bylaw into action so they can keep passengers safe.

Council will make the final call later today.

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