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REPORTING · 26th March 2013
Walter McFarlane
The Escort Service was a topic at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, March 25th. Council discussed the results from the community meeting on Tuesday, March 14th. Councillor Edwin Empinado made a motion to accept the report on the community meeting and have staff bring back bylaw amendments to a Regular Council Meeting in April.

Empinado wanted to increase the price of a business license. Deputy CAO, Warren Waycheshen stated they were talking about making the costs $1000 for the agency and $250 per escort. He expressed these prices were based on the general region.

Empinado pointed out the costs for the license were higher in Prince George and Prince Rupert. Lyle McNish, Deputy Treasurer explained it was based on an average between Rupert, Terrace and Smithers.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff made an amendment to increase the amount of money charged to the agency as $2000.

Councillor Rob Goffinet spoke against this motion. “I would like staff to look and in their considered opinion, what is a fee that would cover administrative costs, without being so high that Escort Services would, basically, be dissuaded from entering into the bylaw,” said Goffinet.

Goffinet explained there was a fine balancing act here. If they punish the Escorts with the bylaw, they would undo the intent of the bylaw which is to have compliance. He stated the service does not have to be in compliance with their bylaw.

“If we’re going to do a bylaw, the right amount of restriction and regulation to get the maximum buy in,” said Goffinet. “By regulations, you want a business to regulate and not go underground, like their operating right now.”

He asked staff to study the right fee to get compliance and pay for bylaw enforcement. He did not want to pass a restrictive amendment.

Empinado agreed with the amendment. He stated the residents were keen and administration will be doing many things.

Goffinet still wanted to see the amount of buy in and revenue as Council was prejudging a cost. He suggested giving staff the ability to look at the various rates for compliance. He pointed out a higher rate might increase noncompliance, then Council has failed to get the escort services to come out from the underground and buy in, losing all of the revenue. They could tweak the price at a later date.

“Several things which came out of that meeting […] was that we don’t allow licensing and allow them to take us to court or do whatever. That was the option that came forward by everybody and only one person in that room said: make it difficult and unattractive and undesirable for them to come and make them pay,” said Murphy.

She said she did not want to deny the license and go to Court because this would waste the taxpayers dollars. She decided to make it difficult instead.

Councillor Phil Germuth thought the numbers were inconsequential. Feldhoff pointed out there were two agencies operating at $0 cost. He added $2000 was better than $1000 and about the same as the other communities. The amendment was called and carried.

Goffinet, still concerned about inadvertently driving the escorts underground wanted to hear a report from administration concerning compliance in communities which have a bylaw and how many of them have escort services which are underground.

Feldhoff stated it was an impossible question but RCMP could still provide input. The motion was called and carried.