Iqaluit cab costs could climb next week



IQALUIT — The Town of Iqaluit is having second thoughts about its demand that cabbies improve their service before receiving a hike in taxi fares.

Iqaluit cab patrons could thus begin handing over $4.50 per trip as soon as next week.

Taxi cab drivers in Nunavut’s capital have been calling for a fare hike since last December, when the skyrocketing cost of gas began paring away their profits. With gas costs running nearly 93 cents per litre, some cabbies complained it was barely worth their while to keep their cars on the road.

But at a Jan. 16 public meeting on the proposed fare hike, many Iqaluit residents turned out to question whether drivers deserve the increase. They accused cabbies of a litany of illegal acts, ranging from driving too fast to dealing drugs from their cars.

In the wake of those complaints, the Town council on Jan. 29 agreed to grant the fare hike only after taxi companies display an improvement in service.

“But that’s not workable,” Mayor John Matthews said Monday.

He said the Town administration has determined there’s no good way to gauge when taxi improvements have occurred. “Performance is very hard to monitor. It’s administratively too difficult to do what we wanted to do,” he said.

Instead, the Town will propose to council a different approach: grant the fare hike, but then encourage residents to complain to the Iqaluit bylaw department if they witness cabbies breaking the law.

If bylaw officers verify three violations against the same cabby they could temporarily suspend that driver’s taxi licence, Matthews suggested.

Besides being easier to implement, such a plan is more equitable than the council’s proposal, Matthews said. “It’s only causing grief to the drivers who do have a bad track record.”

Many drivers had protested that the council’s proposal unjustly branded them as criminals, depriving them of a badly-needed fare hike due to the bad behaviour of a few of their colleagues.

“It’s going to put a lot more work to the bylaw (officers),” Matthews said. “But I think it’s important that the patrons of the taxi industry get some bang for their buck.”

Cab fares haven’t increased in Nunavut’s capital since 1998, when the Town council upped them to the current $3.75.

Since 1992, taxi fares in Iqaluit have increased only 7 per cent, while the cost of gas has shot up 39 per cent.

If the council approves the administration’s latest proposal at its meeting on Tuesday, cab fares in the capital could increase as soon as that day.

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