NORTH BAY -- A new North Bay taxi bylaw could be adopted in early 2021 if the city’s police services board approves it.

This comes from North Bay Police Chief Scott Tod in a Tuesday morning town hall meeting with stakeholders on both sides of the issue.

The issue has drawn extreme anger from the taxi industry and praise from rideshare supporters.

“There will be no cap on plates moving forward,” said U-Need-A-Cab Owner John Strang. “Any Joe-blow can hop in a car and pay the fee and operate a taxi in the City of North Bay."

Conducted by North Bay Police, its services board is in charge of overseeing and creating rules for ride-share companies. North Bay city council decided to delegate responsibility for creating and enforcing rules for ride-share companies to the board in 2019.

The board has been responsible for licensing and regulating taxis in the city since 1997. It hired BMA Management Consulting Inc. to review the existing bylaw.

Draft version

A draft version of the proposed bylaw was published in August on the police service’s website. The board began accepting written comments, recommendations and concerns about the proposed bylaw until September.

The bylaw would involve making sure all vehicles have proper licensing, plating and signage. The company’s name or logo would have to be on the vehicles, and companies would need to provide police record checks of their drivers, among other documentation.

There would be new licensing fees for private transportation companies and updated fees for taxis.

"It levels the playing field for all of the companies in town wishing to operate,” said North Bay Police Insp. Jeff Warner.

Uride, a rideshare company based out of Thunder Bay, has been in the city since the summer of 2019 because there is no wording in the current bylaw that could stop them from operating.

"The biggest thing in North Bay is trying to get enough drivers on the road,” said Uride founder Cody Ruberto. “We just want to make sure whatever the licensing process is, is seamless and smooth."

Special constable

Police acknowledge it is difficult to satisfy all parties. They plan on hiring a special constable to inspect and oversee audits, and meet with drivers, passengers and managers of businesses that operate under the licensing.

But there is no clear picture of the hours that officer would work. Tod said when it comes to enforcement, any feedback provided by the community and industry would be looked into.

“We're going to be allowed to check for driver's licenses, fares, what they're charging, stuff like that. So that will be a big component,” said Warner.

Police plan to draft a final proposed bylaw and then submit it to the board for a vote. If the bylaw is approved by the board, it could come into effect starting early 2021.