City hall briefs: council approves taxi industry review

City council gave the green light Wednesday to a review of Ottawa’s taxi bylaw that could potentially introduce new regulations for ride-sharing services such as Uber.

The comprehensive plan proposed by city staff calls for an outside consultant to oversee the review of taxi and limousine regulations, including potential new rules to govern “new hailing technologies and transportation-for-a-fee service models” that are currently illegal under city bylaws.

Coun. Diane Deans, the chair of the city’s community and protective services committee, said that while Uber has received the lion’s share of media attention, the review will cover all Internet-dispatch services.

“There are other hailing technologies out there and who knows how many more will emerge in the months and years ahead,” she said.

The guiding principles behind the review will be public safety, accessibility and consumer protection, Ms. Deans added. The consultant is expected to collect data on average wait times and fare costs as well as the industry’s ability to service all neighbourhoods and client groups in Ottawa.

While many taxi drivers have expressed concerns about the safety of newer hailing services and fear about the impact they are having on their livelihoods, Ms. Deans said the review will take an open-minded approach.

“It’s also important that we balance our regulatory responsibilities with the people’s right to have access to a variety of transportation options,” she said.

The review, which has a projected budget of $300,000, will include consultations with the public and members of key industry and consumer groups, likely starting this fall. A report with recommendations for changes to the current bylaw could be ready by early next year.

Since Uber began operating in the city last October, bylaw officials have laid about 60 charges against drivers and have collected $16,000 in fines.

COUNCIL EYES CANADA 150 FUNDING

Council also approved a list of projects it is putting forward to receive potential funding under the federal government’s newly announced Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.

The program, announced earlier this month, is designed to help fund the rehabilitation or expansion of public facilities such as community centres, museums, parks, libraries and recreational facilities.

The government has allocated $44.4 million to the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, which is overseeing the program in Ottawa’s region, over two years beginning in April 2016. To be eligible for funding, applications must be submitted to the agency by June 9, and the projects must be “substantially completed” by March 2018.

The federal government and the city will split the costs of each project equally. City staff said Wednesday they don’t know exactly how much cash Ottawa will receive, but Coun. Diane Deans said it will likely be “in the range of $4 million.”

Councillors were asked to submit projects from each ward. Council approved a final list of 23 projects, with parks and recreation facilities given priority over cultural and heritage projects. It also gave city treasurer Marian Simulik and city manager Kent Kirkpatrick the authority to further prioritize the list if the federal government requires it.

“There’s no shortage of projects to choose from,” Ms. Deans said. “Infrastructure is our big issue. There’s never enough municipal dollars to do all of the infrastructure work that municipalities across the country need.”

The federal government has the final say over which projects will receive funding. Ms. Deans said with a federal election looming this fall, she expects an announcement “sooner rather than later.”

Among council’s major requests are:

Crestview Pool and Bob Mitchell Pool Complex renovation ($3.3 million);

Cyrville Seniors Community Centre renovation ($3 million);

Kanata Recreation Complex phase 3 renovation ($3 million);

Manotick Arena renovation and expansion ($2 million);

Renovation of the Rosemount branch of the Ottawa Public Library ($2 million);

Heron Park Field House renovation and expansion ($1.2 million);

Mooney’s Bay beach pavilion renovation ($1 million).