Judge dismisses lawsuit against city over taxicab bylaw

Matt Gardner
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A local judge has rejected a lawsuit filed by the National Hotel against the city concerning its bylaw prohibiting taxicabs from accessing drive-thru liquor stores.

Prince Albert Daily Herald

In his decision, Judge R.S. Smith found that the regulation of taxi drivers and owners in Prince Albert fell within the city’s jurisdiction as defined in the Cities Act and that council followed proper legal procedure in passing the bylaw.

Accordingly, he awarded the City costs in the amount of $3,500 against National Hotel general manager Cathy Duffield and owner Rahim Basaria, who filed suit shortly after the bylaw was passed on May 12.

City solicitor Ken Paskaruk said he was not surprised at all by Smith’s decision or any other aspect of the case.

“It’s a very straightforward issue,” Paskaruk said. “There was little doubt that the procedure that council was required to follow was in fact followed.

“The other aspect of it, as to whether it was within the city’s jurisdiction to deal with this type of an issue, I think it’s quite clear that it was the case. The city has the ability to regulate the behaviour of taxicab drivers and owners.”

“Council acted … in a legislative function,” he added. “Under the Cities Act, its primary requirement is to act reasonably, and certainly there was no indication that it did anything otherwise.”

In their application, Duffield and Basaria adopted what the judge referred to as a “two-pronged approach.”

On the one hand, they argued that the city did not follow the proper procedure for passing bylaws under the Cities Act.

On the other, they indicated that the main purpose of the bylaw was the regulation of the sale of alcohol -- a responsibility that lies outside the city’s jurisdiction and rests exclusively with the provincial government.

Regarding the procedural argument, Duffield and Basaria suggested that the bylaw was given three readings on May 12 and without the unanimous agreement mandated by the act for the third reading.

While the first reading of the bylaw took place on April 7, the version brought before council on May 12 had been amended to include taxicab owners as well as drivers. Duffield and Basaria argued that the amendments meant the May 12 version amounted to a completely different bylaw.

There was little doubt that the procedure that council was required to follow was in fact followed. Ken Paskaruk

Smith, however, dismissed this objection on the grounds that “the change in the wording of the bylaw from the first reading of April 7 to the final reading on May 12 was not such that it changed the essential character of the bylaw. It was simply an amendment that expanded the scope of the regulation” -- meaning that council followed proper legal procedure as defined in the act.

As for the applicants’ contention that the bylaw fell outside the city’s jurisdiction, Smith sided with the latter’s argument that the law fell within its “broad authority to legislate in relation to peace, order and good government of the city.”

“I concede that as a natural incident of the bylaw there may be an impact on the sale of alcohol in the City of Prince Albert,” Smith wrote in his decision.

“However, such effect, which at this point is speculative, does not mean that the bylaw is in pith and substance directed at the regulation of the sale of alcohol. The bylaw focusses [sic] the regulation of activities of taxicab drivers and owners in the City of Prince Albert.”

The essence of that regulation, he added, fell squarely within the city’s jurisdiction as defined in the Act. As a result he dismissed the applicants’ argument that the bylaw was ultra vires (“beyond power”) of the city.

Duffield declined comment on the judge’s decision when reached by phone on Wednesday.

See also:

Taxicabs banned from drive thru liquor stores

Organizations: Prince Albert, National Hotel

Geographic location: Prince Albert

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