Cabbies should foot police bill, says Ottawa councillor

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 @ 11:18AM


An Ottawa city councillor says taxi drivers should pay the policing bill for a job action that is now entering into its second month — and has erupted into violence.

Riley Brockington, who represents River Ward, says after the cost of policing the drivers’ job action is tallied, he plans to personally deliver a bill to the president of Unifor, the airport taxi drivers’ union.

“I expect the public will ask that whoever generated the costs should foot the bill,” Riley said Thursday.

He doesn’t how much policing the taxi action has cost, and says it will likely be a symbolic act, but residents of his ward, which includes the Airport Parkway, where much of the disruption is centred, are fed up.

“Resources are being stretched to the max,” said Brockington.  “These resources are taken from where they need to be — preventing and addressing crime. I have a long list of issues where police ought to be deployed.”

Brockington may not know how much is being spent on policing the protests, but Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, who chairs the Ottawa Police Service Board, says a conservative estimate is about $60,000. And Brockington could have had that information if he had asked the police services board, added El-Chantiry.

“My colleague should have spent some more time understanding the relationship between council and the board,” said El-Chantiry, pointing out that the police service’s board —which regulates policing in this city — is the appropriate forum for Brockington’s complaint.

Not that the chairman thinks Brockington will be successful in getting the police’s OT bill paid by the taxi union.

“I’m not sure that will go anywhere or that we even have the right to collect those costs,” said El-Chantiry.

While he’s as fed up as anyone over the month-long taxi dispute — and doesn’t have any tolerance for drivers who break the law — El-Chantiry pointed out that the public has a right to demonstrate, and the police’s job is to ensure “the safety of the public and of the protesters.”

On Tuesday, a taxi carrying a passenger who had just arrived in Ottawa from New Brunswick was attacked by drivers wielding metal bars and a window was smashed. The passenger later told a reporter he was picking shards of glass out of his hair. A driver from a rival cab company also reported that his taxi was vandalized and the tires slashed.

On Thursday, police charged three men with mischief and possession of dangerous weapons.

One thing that Brockington and El-Chantiry agree on is the need for a mediator to settle the dispute between the cab company, the drivers and the airport.

“We have to stop it now,” said Brockington. While he doesn’t blame Mayor Jim Watson for refusing to meet with the drivers, Brockington says the mayor can call for a mediator.

“We can’t be prepared to do nothing.”

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