City of Red Deer taxi drivers protested proposed changes to the city’s current Vehicle for Hire Bylaw Monday afternoon.  

On April 15, taxi drivers gathered at City Hall to show their opposition to city administration’s recommendation that the taxi plate limit be removed from the current bylaw.  

The bylaw was first adopted by city council in 2020 and implemented in 2021 following the introduction of Transportation Network Companies (TNC) or rideshare companies.  

Key areas of focus include model and age of vehicles, taxi plate limits, taxi drop rates, and TNC drop rates.  

The city’s rationale for the proposed changes include creating equity for various Vehicle for Hire types, eliminating the cap on taxi plates creating the opportunity for competition, and ensuring safety is at the forefront.   

The current limit of taxi plates is one for every 750 residents, and one for every 15,000 for accessible taxi plates based on the last census.   

The taxi industry is the only industry where the number of companies and drivers permitted to operate is limited in the city.  

“It’s the only industry where the city has stepped in to ensure living wages are guaranteed, however, it has been reported the plate cap does not ensure a living wage. It limits competition, which has been assumed to guarantee a level of wages for drivers though there is minimal evidence to suggest the wages earned under the cap equates to a living wage,” the City of Red Deer’s April 15 council agenda said.   

The city has received letters and complaints from drivers, expressing that they do not feel they are paid a living wage.   

“What brokerages pay their employees is not the role of the city. The city also does not ensure that a living wage is obtained in any other type of career or job other than a taxi driver,” the agenda said. “Plate limits prohibit entry into the market and competition. Without competition, there may be lower customer service standards or a willingness to be innovative, with minimal options for customers to choose from.”  

Protesters in Red Deer.Red Deer taxi drivers showed their opposition for the City of Red Deer's proposed Vehicle for Hire Bylaw changes on April 15 at City Hall. Photo by Emily Rogers

A taxi driver for nearly eight months, Nasim Zekria, is concerned about the bylaw changes.   

“It's affecting us because there's already too many drivers who have a plate. We are already on the verge of bankruptcy for each driver because we're waiting one plus hours for one ride,” Zekria said. “The city putting more plates is destroying the whole driving industry. There are 100 plus families losing their jobs when this is privatized because we are already on the verge of collapse.”  

Vikash Sharma a taxi driver for six years, believes the bylaw changes should be based on city population.   

“We have enough taxis to serve the community, we are not busy. This is the only job we are doing and what the city is doing, they are just kicking us in our stomachs,” Sharma said. “There’s no business.”  

Sharma is asking the city to reconsider the bylaw changes and only bring in a taxi open rank system when the population increases.   

“I hope common sense will prevail and they will listen to the drivers,” he said. “We have more than enough taxis in Red Deer.”  

He is hopeful that the city will complete more feasibility studies and talk to the drivers before finalizing the changes.  

“We are not a big company; we are just individual owner operated. We need to feed our families, mortgages need to be paid, inflation is so high right now, and interest rates are going up,” Sharma said. “On top of that, the city is introducing this new system, it's not very good at this point in time.”