Taxi company suspends insurance coverage as many Ottawa cabs remain parked during pandemic
OTTAWA -- It’s another COVID-19-related blow to the taxi industry.
A drop in riders during the COVID-19 pandemic has already parked dozens of cabs across Ottawa. Now, the city’s largest taxi company is suspending the insurance policy for its fleet, in a move that could force many cabs off the road.
“No, I can’t drive. My cab is parked. I don’t have insurance,” said Andre Houlahan, a taxi driver in Ottawa for over 40 years.
In a letter to drivers earlier this week, Coventry Connections said “as of May 31, 2020, Coventry has cancelled the taxi fleet insurance policy with Travelers Canada.”
“As of May 31, 2020 you will no longer have insurance on your taxi. You will be responsible for sourcing your own insurance and providing proof of insurance to the City and to the Company."
Coventry Connections operates Blue Line, Capital and Westway Taxi.
The number of taxis operating on Ottawa’s roads has been reduced from 1,192 to 114 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drivers now fear that the number could shrink even more and become permanent.
“I was hurt,” Houlahan said. “Taxi industry brokers, these people that are millionaires today, everything that they made was on the back of drivers.”
Unlike ride-sharing services, taxi drivers are required to have 24-hour commercial insurance.
The union representing Ottawa taxi drivers said there are only one or two companies in Canada that offer the complicated type of insurance required by taxis.
“It’s totally different regulations. If we can have similar regulations as ride-sharing, then it would be easy for us to shop around [for insurance],” said Ali Enad, President of Unifor Local 1688.
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Coventry Connections said the insurance cancellation is “due to non-payment of monthly insurance premiums.”
“I have no explanation to this, we were shocked by the letter,” Enad said.
Enad is calling on the City to provide an interim plan while they continue to advocate for looser regulations.
In a memo to Council, Emergency and Protective Services General Manager Anthony Di Monte says the decision to cancel the insurance policy for drivers “is a business decision taken by Coventry Connections.”
“We are also aware that Coventry Connections has ceased to provide insurance coverage for taxi drivers and plate holders due to the economic impacts of the pandemic and the inability to meet operational and other business costs,” writes Di Monte.
“As the regulator of taxi services, the lack of required insurance coverage is of concern to the city.”
Di Monte says the Director of Bylaw and Regulatory Services is taking immediate steps to ensure that any taxi that is currently providing services to the public is fully insured.
Enad said if they receive no help, the only vehicles operating starting June 1 would be the roughly 100 rented out by Coventry.