NEWS

Ottawa taxi for children to become limousine

03/13/2012 09:48 EDT | Updated 05/13/2012 05:12 EDT

The City of Ottawa planned to shut down a taxi service for children launched by an early childhood educator but the business decided to change its identity.

Ottawa mother Fleurette Tharet, who launched Fleurette Kids Taxi in January of this year, met with city officials Monday, according to business consultant Alexander Leslie.

Leslie said she was told to obtain a specialty limousine licence from the city. He added vague bylaws surrounding taxi services made it difficult to exist under that name.

"She's doing everything legally. She's got just as much or more background checks and qualifications than a taxi driver or operator might," Leslie said.The business, which aims to help busy parents who need to pick up and drop off their children, will now change its name to remove the word "taxi". It will also have to tint its windows.

City officials began to investigate the before and after-school babysitting service in February to determine if it was a "bandit" taxi — as taxi companies called it — or a daycare service.

Leslie said Tharet had ceased operations then in fear of a $25,000 fine and will not return to operation until the business name is changed and all bylaws are followed.

One-month investigation

They spent one month looking into all the details of the business, which operated in both Quebec and Ontario, and told Tharet Monday she had to cease operations immediately.

That included three other drivers who were employed by Tharet.

Bylaw officials decided the business was indeed a taxi and the woman was not complying with Ottawa's taxi bylaws and regulations, which are in place to protect passengers.

"The city's put itself in a position where there are so few taxi licences issued that the resale value can go between $200,000-$300,000 per licence," Leslie said

"I can see why the cab companies are very, very particular about jumping on what they think is an underground taxi company. But at the same time, limiting licences like that creates high prices and insufficient services for people."

All licensed taxis must be properly insured, drivers must first be screened and all have to have in-car security cameras.

Leslie said English is Tharet's third language and she did not understand the repercussions of using the word "taxi" in her business title. He also said he wants the city to revisit some of its taxi bylaws.

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