Burns Lake Car Service owners, John Jones and Dirk Beckman say they are concerned about an illegal taxi operation that, if left unchecked, could possibly run their business into the ground.
Jones said to Lakes District News that he is aware of an illegal taxi operation in Burns Lake that is reportedly picking up passengers for payment.
He said, “The illegal taxi is unlicensed and should be shut down. I want to let the community know that the other service operating in Burns Lake is illegal and unlicensed on all accounts, and I have filed complaints with the Burns Lake RCMP, the Village of Burns Lake and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Passenger Transportation Branch,” Jonas said.
He said his frustration is growing, as he and Beckman have followed all the legal channels to provide Burns Lake with a licensed taxi service, but it is consistently being undermined by an illegal taxi service operating in the local area.
“I think this [illegal taxi] is the reason why Burns Lake has not been able to have a viable taxi service over the past few years. This is probably the reason why the Lakeland Taxi shut down …. it was sabotaged,” he alleged.
Before starting up Burns Lake Car Service both Jones and Beckman used to drive for Burns Lake Taxi, which they say is now not operational.
Jones said he understands the illegal taxi is operating under the guise of a delivery business, but he claims that some of the local deliveries being made are passengers.
“This person is not licensed for passenger transportation. They are putting local lives at risk as they are not properly insured or licensed. The Burns Lake Car Service is the only legal taxi service allowed to operate in Burns Lake.”
Beckman said, “We have costs associated with the business, such as licensing and extra insurance as well as required car maintenance …. they don’t have all of that.”
Currently the Burns Lake Car Service has three fully licensed passenger cars in Burns Lake and plans on having a fully loaded passenger van for handicap transportation in the near future.
Corporal Chris Ivany, from the Burns Lake RCMP detachment confirmed to Lakes District News that a complaint about an illegal taxi service had been lodged at the detachment and that the detachment is now conducting an investigation into the allegations.
He said the detachment had also previously been contacted by Jim McBride the Village of Burns Lake’s bylaw enforcement officer about the same issue.
“There is an investigation into the issue which is open and active,” Cpl. Ivany said, adding that it depends on what the findings are, as to if there will be any charges laid.
A Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Passenger Transportation Branch representative said to Lakes District News that if people suspect a taxi business is operating illegally they should call the Ministry and lodge an official complaint, which would then be investigated. She said all legal passenger transportation businesses are issued with a license from the Ministry and they should have this in the vehicle at all times and presented it, if asked to.
Ministry documentation shows that the Burns Lake Car Service is the only taxi business in Burns Lake to currently hold a valid special authorization license, issued and approved by the Passenger Transportation Branch.
A special authorization license is required for passenger directed vehicles, such as taxis, limousines or other types of vehicles with a carrying capacity of 11 passengers or less, excluding the driver.
Village of Burns Lake chief operating officer Sheryl Worthing said the village is aware of the issue.
However, aside from enforcing local businesses have a business licence the village has no jurisdiction over the alleged illegal taxi operation.
Worthing said that Village of Burns Lake bylaw enforcement officer Jim McBride has acted upon a formal complaint from the public by forwarding a letter to the alleged operator of the business, advising them that a valid Burns Lake business license is required.
Worthing confirmed that there is two taxi businesses in Burns Lake that hold a current village business license; Burns Lake Car Service and Burns Lake Taxi, which is not currently operating.