There are no cabs in West Nipissing, as council has “temporarily withdrawn” the taxicab licences belonging to Le Taxi, the sole taxi operator in the municipality.
West Nipissing made the announcement on February 23, mentioning the licences were withdrawn “due to issues of compliance” with the taxi by-law as outlined in the Municipal Act. The issue was discussed at length during the regular meeting of council on February 15.
At that meeting, a letter dated February 11 from Le Taxi was presented, requesting an extension to the vehicle licensing provision, a deadline set for February 15. Le Taxi was hoping to receive a one-month extension that would carry them through to March 15.
The extension would allow for “some additional time to replace the vehicles I have, as well as to get the others fixed correctly,” Le Taxi explained, adding that “I have several (vehicles) sitting at dealerships but due to staff shortages and the difficulty everyone is having obtaining parts due to Covid-19 they are doing exactly that, sitting” in the lots.
Obtaining new vehicles also posed a challenge “as the lots are understaffed and understocked,” Le Taxi explained, noting they “hope we can come to a resolution soon,” and emphasized how a month extension would allow them more time to replace vehicles and fix others.
Le Taxi has operated in the Sturgeon Falls area for 13 years and hold all 10 of the municipal taxi licences. At one point there were three companies operating, “and they each had four,” said municipal clerk Melanie Ducharme, but now “the current owner acquired all the licences available.”
One company holding all licences concerned councillor Chris Fisher, who worried “we’ve created a monopoly,” noting other businesses “might want to run a taxi service as well.” He suggested council bring the taxi by-law back to the table at the next meeting. “We owe it to our constituents to reconsider the taxi by-law in its entirety.”
As for Le Taxi, as of “the close of business” on February 15, the municipal clerk noted “we have not received renewal of their taxi stand licence or dispatcher licence” and council was concerned over safety issues.
“We could be liable as a municipality” explained councillor Dan Roveda, who was against granting the extension without having received the necessary documents from the company.
“We don’t have any proof that these vehicles are sound anymore,” the director of corporate services said, as the municipality was “waiting for the safeties to come in,” and “we have registered complaints with documented evidence to make us suspicious of a number of the vehicles” in the fleet.
BayToday reached out to Le Taxi, but they could not be contacted for comment. The company did post a comment to the Our West Nipissing page on Facebook yesterday, reiterating the need for the extra time to replace three vehicles and repair others.
“Instead of focusing discussion regarding our extension request, some councillors took it upon themselves to defame and share false allegations about our business,” adding “we do have the required documentation” regarding the “safety checks” for those vehicles in operation.
“We didn’t even get a courtesy email or call from town hall to inform us that council was discussing our request at the meeting of February 15th,” Le Taxi noted.
Councillor Denis Senecal thought the suggestions the fleet was unsafe was “malicious,” adding “this company has been in Sturgeon for 13 years, and I don’t think they need to be put down by councillors.”
The conversation was “very disturbing,” he said. “There’s no reason to shut them down, why would we do this? Is this the kind of support we offer to business?”
“We should be ashamed, really, to cause such harm to a business,” he added. “Provide them an extension, it’s not the end of the world.”
Mayor Joanne Savage agreed. “I would be willing to grant that extension,” she said, as without it, “we have no one.”
And now they don’t, as that post by Le Taxi noted that owners Pierre and Patricia Deforge “made the decision to no longer invest money in our West Nipissing business,” and will “move on.”
Their message concluded with them mentioning the charities their business has helped and thanked “all our patrons throughout the many years.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.