Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit September 01, 2014 - 9:45 am

Frustrated Iqaluit cab companies want fare increase

Cabbies want first increase in seven years, raising prospect of a strike

Iqaluit's two biggest cab companies say taxi fares have not kept pace with cost of living increases. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Iqaluit's two biggest cab companies say taxi fares have not kept pace with cost of living increases. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Iqaluit’s taxi companies are starting to wonder if the city will ever increase cab fares, after the City of Iqaluit’s taxi committee backed off on a recommendation to raise fares Aug. 28.

The city’s taxi bylaw calls for a review of cab fares every year, but fares have remained unchanged, at $6, since 2007.

Requests by taxi companies to increase the fare by $1 this year have yet to reach council for a final decision, despite repeated attempts to do so through the city’s taxi committee.

Now at least one company owner says cabbies may have to strike if they don’t get what they’re asking for.

In an Aug. 28 taxi committee meeting, the committee chair, city councillor Noah Papatsie, noted that many residents may not be able to afford the increase. The committee then put a request back to council on whether to have a public consultation on the matter.

“We’re just going back and forth,” said Michel Gilbert, co-owner of Caribou Cabs. “In June or July we told the taxi committee everything we wanted. They said, ‘we need more information about a few things.’

“We resolved those, then they came back with the same points [to clarify] as before,” Gilbert said. “We discussed why we want an increase at the beginning, and now they want us to explain it again. It’s like spinning tires for nothing.”

“They’ve been pussy-footing around this for so long,” said Craig Dunphy, owner of Pai-pa Taxi Ltd. “It seems to be kind of like a broken record.”

The owners of Pai-pa and Caribou, Iqaluit’s two largest cab companies, have repeatedly pointed out that as the cost of living increases in Iqaluit every year, taxi companies are left with mounting expenses, and no increased revenues to cover them.

“Everything’s going up. Electricity, fuel, insurance — everything went up, and the fare didn’t for the past seven years,” Gilbert told Nunatsiaq News.

“We’re not looking at becoming millionaires here,” Dunphy said in a separate interview. “But we also want to make a living, and that’s just not happening.

“We’re the only industry in town that has no say over what they charge. When you go shopping here, do you see anything on the shelf in any store in town that’s the same price now as it was seven years ago? Absolutely nothing.”

Coun. Papatsie noted that, by the same token, “not too many people up here can afford that increase, because half the population is on social income,” he told Nunatsiaq News, Aug. 29.

“Everyone needs to have their say. The public needs to be heard too, on their side of the story, and on what’s been happening with taxi companies,” he said. “Is it good to have that increase now?”

The decision on whether to hold a public consultation on the fare increase will be council’s to make, at the next council meeting.

Gilbert said the committee’s motion resolves nothing. If council fails to move on the request to increase fares, cab companies may be left with no option but to strike, he said.

The fare increase is not the only change cab companies have requested. Caribou Cabs has also proposed an amendment to the taxi bylaw, requesting all taxis install security cameras.

“It protects us, and it protects the customer,” Gilbert said. The amendment has nothing to do with the fare increase, he added.

“We’re not asking for money to pay for the cameras,” he said. “If we go ahead with the increase, we’re going to put cameras in the car.”

Dunphy and Gilbert also want the city’s taxi bylaw to include details on penalties for cab companies that undercut fares, for example, or work without a dispatcher. And they want better enforcement.

Municipal enforcement “is trying very hard to help us with that situation, to apply those rules,” Gilbert said, “but they say they can’t do anything.”

Penalties must be included by way of an amendment, or a complete re-write of the bylaw, he said.

“Complaints have been made to different cab companies and different drivers, and so on,” Dunphy said. “Very little has been done to alleviate those problems”

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