Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Municipalities’ approach to Taxi renewal fees vary around the province; relief being sought

Mississauga’s manager of vehicle licensing Michael Foley stated that, “there are issues” with providing benefits to just one licensing category, but said Staff could address this topic. Photo: CBC

Unlike their peers in several other municipalities, taxi plate owners in Mississauga and Toronto are still seeking relief from renewal fees for plates sitting on the shelf.

On February 15, a motion was passed at Mississauga’s Public Vehicle Advisory Committee (PVAC) for Staff to examine the possibility of implementing such measures.

At the moment, the city has a staggering 307 plates on the shelf. And while Mississauga plate owners have a February 28 deadline looming to pay their $484.75 renewal fee for 2022, the neighbouring cities of Oakville and Brampton have reduced their renewal fee for inactive plates to just $54, while Richmond Hill, and Markham are charging nothing to renew plates on the shelf.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, the City has not pulled any plates off of vehicles for non-payment of annual fees at this time.

“We have to give Ottawa credit for being accommodating,” says Marc Andre Way, CEO of Coventry Connections and Blue Line Taxi. “Ottawa has not pulled any plates as yet; it has offered payment terms to owners who need them, and has extended the payment deadline twice. I have to say, the attitude in Ottawa is that they have tried to be helpful as the industry copes with COVID.”

Mississauga’s manager of vehicle licensing Michael Foley stated that, “there are issues” with providing benefits to just one licensing category, but said Staff could address this topic with (Mississauga) Legal.

All-Star Taxi account manager Mark Sexsmith deemed it, “a step forward, but they’re not enthusiastic about it.”

“We’re forced to pay, and pay, and pay, The City is hiding behind the by-law saying, ‘Sorry, we can’t do anything,’” he alleges.

“What we need is a broader consideration of what the taxi industry has been going through between competition from the ride-hailing companies, and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Sami Khairallah, owner of Aeroport Taxi & Limousine Service notes that during the past two years of the pandemic many taxicabs, “have been parked and their businesses have been without any income, and basically closed.” And for those still operating, he says the income loss resulting from Covid-19, and (the accompanying) restrictions and lockdowns, coupled with the booming growth of Transportation Network Companies (like Uber) has been “devastating”.

“Compassionately, we are asking for relief regarding renewal fees. We are asking the city to follow the cities of Brampton, and Oakville by charging a $54 renewal fee for any inactive plate,” he stated in a letter to PVAC.

Plate owner Peter Pellier emphasized that, in accordance with provincial legislation, business licensing fees must be set on a cost recovery basis. But for Mississauga owners the renewal fee is 484.75, regardless of the status of the plate.

“In short, a taxi owner whose plate is on the shelf and who is earning zero income is obliged to pay the full fee, even though related enforcement costs are significantly lower, Apart from maintaining an ownership record, in fact, there are no costs involved,” he writes in a letter to City Of Mississauga Commissioner Geoff Wright.

He agrees the City should extend relief to members of its’ “beleaguered” taxi industry.

“Many senior taxi owners, having sustained major losses surrounding their plates in recent years, live close to the bone — this after serving the people of Mississauga for decades before retiring. Suffice to say, $661 in license renewal fees, including the taxi driver’s renewal fee of $176.25 in the absence of any income from the plate, imposes an onerous hardship,” he adds.

The February 15 motion was put forward by Blue & White Taxi owner Baljit Pandori, who requested that the City issue an extension on plate renewals while this item goes back to Staff for review.

“We only have 15 days left for renewal,” he says.

“PVAC was created to listen to the industry. How many times have so many plates been on the shelf — because everything shut down? Now things are opening up again, as of March 1. The Staff is looking at this (item). An extension would be a great thing, right now.”

Foley noted there is an option for plate owners to pay 10 per cent of their renewal fees by February 28 and the full amount by the end of the year — while Staff reviews this item in the interim.

The next PVAC meeting is scheduled for April 19.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, a petition is circulating requesting renewal fee relief for plates on the shelf, and a two-year extension on the life of vehicles from 2014, 2015, and 2016

The petition is available to sign online, and on paper at numerous industry locations.

It states that, “Taxi owners, operators, and drivers have been adversely affected for a continual span of two years…Many taxis have been parked as a result of the pandemic, with plates sitting on the shelf. Compassionately, we are asking for relief regarding our renewal fees.”

While renewal fees have been reduced by 50 per cent for 2022 (to $539), struggling owners say this isn’t enough, and are seeking a nominal fee or suspension of payment for plates on the shelf.

Estimates of plates left sitting on the shelf in at Toronto City Hall or unused in garages across the city range from 2,500 to 4,000 plates.

Veteran plate owner Andy Reti says, “We’re done. (Between) the combination of Covid-19, (problems with) insurance, and Uber.”

He attributes the losses to “uncaring, money-hungry bureaucrats.”

Of this year’s 50 per cent reduction in fees, All Taxi Owners and Operators Limited leader Behrouz Khamseh stresses that, “It’s still $500 to people not making money.”

“(And) I would like to see more than relief,” he continues. “This year we don’t pay, next year we don’t pay, what about the year after that? A relief is only a band-aid, we need to figure out what’s going to happen to the taxi industry.”

“These plates need to come on the road. How are they going to when there’s no insurance? And even if you get insurance, where are you going to get the drivers? The City has done huge damage here.”