Volunteer Airdrie recently partnered with Drive Happiness Seniors Association to provide a low-cost, accessible volunteer driver transportation service for seniors and the disabled in the Airdrie area effective May 1, 2021.

On March 18, 2024, Volunteer Airdrie presented a proposal to the City Council, suggesting a partnership between the City of Airdrie and Volunteer Airdrie. The proposal aims to compensate volunteer drivers supporting the Drive Happiness program for the depreciation and maintenance of their private vehicles.

"During the presentation, Volunteer Airdrie shared that over 70 per cent of trips to Calgary were to support hemodialysis appointments which are not available in Airdrie and receive no financial contribution from Alberta Health Services (AHS). The total value requested for the period April 1 to December 31, 2024, was $73,000," according to City of Airdrie documents.

Currently, Council, invests approximately $40,000 per year into the Specialized Medical Trips to Calgary service, through the Transit operating budget.

"This program has a defined scope of providing curb-to-curb transportation, via a contracted accessible taxi provider, to specialists or medical appointments that cannot be fulfilled by practitioners or providers within Airdrie. This program is eligible to Access Airdrie paratransit clients and provided 438 trips in 2023," stated these documents.

After reviewing the request for funding, here are the remarks the administration brought forward to the council according to city documents:

Implications of Compensation

"Volunteer Airdrie has requested funding from the City to cover depreciation and maintenance costs incurred by the volunteer drivers. This funding is in addition to the compensation provided by Volunteer Airdrie to the volunteer drivers to cover a portion of their fuel costs. Provisions that allow for direct funding for a specific purpose (such as deprecation and maintenance), in exchange for the services provided by the Volunteer Airdrie, constitute a contractual relationship and increase liability/risk exposure for the City as it relates to the services being provided. The contractual risk exposure is further compounded by the fact the volunteer drivers are compensated for certain costs of the service being provided, as clarified below."

Volunteer Driver’s Insurance Requirements

"As noted above, the request for funding from the City would constitute a form of compensation to the volunteer drivers. The standard automobile policy (SPF1) does not allow the use of a private vehicle for compensation for hire, such as a taxi, transportation networking company or any arrangement where compensation is provided. Therefore, any form of compensation, even if only the current fuel compensation, invalidates the auto policy the volunteer drivers have in place. Subsequently, the clients using the Drive Happiness program are provided transportation services in vehicles that may not have valid insurance coverage. Should an incident occur, the client will not be able to collect from auto insurance providers and will be seeking indemnification from those who are directly providing the service (volunteer driver and Volunteer Airdrie). Due to their limited resources, the next step for clients would be to target those who fund the service (the City and any other funding organizations).

Each driver must discuss their full volunteer operations to their insurance provider/broker for the appropriate coverage and conditions to apply when operating for compensation or hire (and they must indicate to the broker that they are receiving some type of compensation)."

OH&S Act

"As per the Province Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Act: “Volunteers who perform or supply services to an organization or employer without being paid are defined as workers in Alberta’s OHS Act”. Any form of compensation from the City to Volunteer Airdrie for distribution to their volunteers/workers would require a Health and Safety Management System to comply with the service provider obligations as defined within the OH&S Act. The City would have a duty to ensure this system meets the requirements potentially through contract management."

After multiple concerns and questions arose regarding insurance and other items for those who drive for the program, council voted to request that the administration return with a report reviewing the scope of the existing Specialized Medical Trips to Calgary program to expand to include provision for additional supports, including hemodialysis. This report would include any operational requirements, things such as the operating and budget implications, of a city-managed program.

The administration would target this report to return to the Council in the second quarter of 2025. To see the full council discussion, click HERE.

Dave Maffitt with Volunteer Airdrie stated no matter what happens in the end, the society will continue to provide the Drive Happiness Program.

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