Strathcona County now officially has a taxi bylaw that will tentatively go into effect in July 2015.

Despite more than two hours of debate and discussions on a long list of nearly 10 amendments, council successfully passed second and third readings of the bylaw during its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 7.

“I think we’ve got a good starting document,” said Strathcona County Mayor Roxanne Carr.

“We know that it will be amended, but I think it has answered, certainly, the concerns I heard at the doors from my residents about safety.”

She thanked Coun. Vic Bidzinski for his work in putting it forward, as he has been pushing for a bylaw, and talks have been ongoing since the beginning of February 2012.

Much of the impassioned discussion by council was in regards to criminal conviction, where councillors narrowly voted in favour of the chief commissioner not issuing or renewing a taxi driver’s permit to anyone who has been convicted under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Council also voted in favour of removing two sections that regulated the dress and conduct of a driver, while leaving in a point that would require the vehicle being operated to be inspected before each shift and have any necessary repairs made.

The issue of accessible taxis was also under heated debated, but council resolved to have the section removed.

Additionally, a point under the service refusal section was removed that would allow a driver to turn a passenger away if the passenger was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Finally, a closed vote was held in favour of the requirement to have a permanent vehicle identification number, vehicle permit and taxi name and number.

Only Coun. Brian Botterill did not vote in favour of the bylaw’s third reading, stating that despite the county’s effort to not regulate the market, services such as part-time taxis and private companies are becoming more popular.

“We may actually be regulating the market by putting in enough barriers to entry that it is impossible to run anything other than a full-time taxi service,” he noted.

He said his further issues included that taxi drivers should be regulated by the industry and not by the local government, and that the scope of background checks was not sufficient.

“I think it will be extremely hard to support the budget, as I don’t think we have a $94,000 problem,” Botterill concluded.

Coun. Carla Howatt said she shared some of her fellow councillor’s concerns.

“I think overall, we’re basically putting in a bylaw that is almost obsolete the minute we pass it, and out of date. We’re going to be looking at issues with it, very shortly,” she said.

“I will be supporting it, because I think it’s important to get something in place, but I’m sort of supporting it reluctantly.”

However, on the other side was Coun. Dave Anderson, who was in full support.

“I think it’s a great step in the right direction to make sure that we are protecting our citizens here, and that is something that is of huge value to (me),” he said.