Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

All hail; taxicab stoppage cancelled

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Downtown bar patrons who wanted to grab a cab instead of getting behind the wheel Friday night were able to do it after a planned taxi work stoppage was cancelled.

Just a few hours before the work action was to begin at downtown bars, hotels and nightclubs from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m., Gurmail Mangat, president of Unicity Taxi's board of directors, said Friday the threat to withdraw services had been called off after Mayor Sam Katz agreed to meet next Thursday.

"Before this, nobody had communicated with us," Mangat said.

"As we understand that the mayor is not available this week, we have decided to continue service as usual for the time being."

A press release from Unicity Taxi added the mayor's office said Katz's schedule did not permit a meeting before Sept. 13 because of "prior commitments which will involve the mayor leaving the city for a brief time."

Mangat said he's hoping all issues taxi companies and drivers have with the city and Winnipeg police will be aired during the meeting and solutions can be reached.

Mangat said they had hoped to also meet with police Chief Keith McCaskill, but they have been told that is not possible due to legalities.

"We are not lawbreakers," he said.

"We want some flexibility when there is a need for it."

Mangat said he is hoping taxi stands -- common in many other cities -- can be set up outside several places, including the city's bars, nightclubs, hotels and shopping malls.

"We don't double park... our job is to pick up customers and leave. I don't defend those people. If some drivers do it, we would like to have their numbers."

The threatened cab action began on Tuesday when Unicity and Duffy's announced they would take the action because they believe police officers were unfairly targeting them for parking infractions.

As well, Mangat said, a police officer allegedly handcuffed a driver after approaching him "in a threatening manner" and causing his turban to fall off his head.

Earlier, Katz said he would have preferred it if Winnipeg cab companies had brought their concerns about parking directly to the city.

The mayor said he has exchanged voice messages with cab representatives. He also said all Winnipeggers who go out drinking should have designated drivers and joked he will pick up intoxicated reporters who call his mobile phone Friday night.

McCaskill said on Thursday there is no police crackdown on cabs and on Friday he said a police inspector has called cab officials.

Cab companies have alleged a crackdown outside nightclubs before.

The city is amenable to the idea of establishing more taxi stands, Katz said, referring to a report that came to council in 2011.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2012 A12

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