City chases limousine driver to court

The city's bylaw department is being too heavy-handed with limousine drivers, says Robert Michel Tetrault.

The city’s bylaw department is being too heavy-handed with limousine drivers, says Robert Michel Tetrault.

The owner of Sir Froggy Limousine Service is being dragged through court for failing to pay a ticket he never should have gotten in the first place, he said.

In November 2008, bylaw handed Tetrault a ticket for failing to register his vehicle and get a mechanical inspection.

But he’d received a letter from the city in April of 2008 that said he wasn’t required to get a mechanical.

“Your limousine company does not need to participate in this inspection geared for taxi companies,” said the letter addressed to Tetrault.

But when Tetrault didn’t pay the fine, the city took him to court, he said.

Tetrault appeared at city council on Monday to speak to the city’s proposed new limousine bylaw.

“I’ve been in court for more than a year,” he said Monday evening.

“What for, I’m not even supposed to be under that bylaw (the one governing taxi drivers)?”

It’s a question that Councillor Ranj Pillai was also asking Monday.

“We’re running this person down for a $100 fine from 2008? One hour of a lawyer’s fees costs more than the ticket.”

Pillai expressed concern about the city not informing councillors of that particular court case.

“I’m upset because I didn’t have the details of this case,” he said, explaining that he only found out about it when he met with taxi and limousine operators over the weekend.

The city is hesitant to speak openly about the case and neither the mayor or administration offered Pillai any answers.

Last month, bylaw manager John Taylor presented council with proposed new bylaws for the taxi and limousine industry.

He would like to see limos and taxis regulated under a separate set of bylaws.

Tetrault agrees that the city shouldn’t be lumping taxi drivers together with limousine drivers – it’s one of the reasons he landed in court. And he thinks the city shouldn’t be overseeing limousines at all.

Tetrault believes he should be regulated under the territory’s motor transportation act. That act oversees vehicles with nine or more passengers, the amount Tetrault can fit in his limo.

The changes in the proposed taxi and limousine bylaws are a result of consultations with the industry, said Taylor last month.

But Tetrault thinks the new bylaws aren’t reflective of what the industry actually wants to see happen.

Customer safety should be the number one priority, said Tetrault. That’s something the city and the industry should regulate together, he said.

But limousines should be enforcing their own quality of service, not the bylaw department.

“If I want my car dirty it’s my business. If the customer doesn’t like it, they won’t be taking (my limo),” he said Monday.

Tetrault’s upset by the numerous regulations limousine drivers would have to follow if the bylaw were passed.

“Can I change my suit, change my underwear without bylaw telling me what to do?” he said.

A limo driver can get a $250 fine under the proposed bylaw for failing to be “neat, clean, civil and well-behaved.”

It’s one of 76 different fines limousine and charter vehicles can face. These fines total “thousands of dollars,” said Tetrault.

The city shouldn’t be micro-managing the limousine industry. It can regulate itself, he said.

As an example, Tetrault pointed out to councillors that in 2002 he made his limo non-smoking, long-before the city made it law.

Tetrault is also upset by the city’s demand that all drivers know how to speak, read and write in English.

“I know I don’t talk very well English, I’ve got a French-Canadian accent. For sure, French is my first language,” he said.

“I don’t know how to read and write in English. Who cares? You have millionaires who don’t know how to read and write English.”

The proposed bylaw would put him out of a job if he were to apply for his licence today, he said.

Pillai agreed that some of the new bylaws could “cripple” the taxi and limousine industry.

“There’s things we haven’t done research on,” he said.

“For instance there’s been no due diligence on how the new insurance requirements will impact people.”

Taxi operators may see their insurance rates go up from $1 million to $3 million, while limousine drivers may have to pay up to $5 million.

For Tetrault, sole owner of Sir Froggy Limousine Service, that works out to almost $17,000 a year in insurance costs.

There are other disconcerting areas, said Pillai.

That includes a proposal that all taxis be less than five years old and that central dispatch be required for all companies.

“We should take a phased in approach (to dispatch),” he said.

The city hasn’t updated its taxi and limousine bylaws since 2003.

The city is accepting comments on the new bylaws until March 15th.

Copies of the proposed new taxi and limousine bylaws can be accessed from the city bylaw department.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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