Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Saskatchewan's 70-year old provincial bus service to shut down

Employees cried and passengers were angry when they learned last Wednesday that the provincial government of Brad Wall had decided to shut down the 70-year-old bus service.

The Saskatchewan Transportation Company is a provincial crown corporation:
The Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) is a Crown Corporation of the Government of Saskatchewan, created in 1946 by an Order in Council. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan, with a mandate to provide bus services carrying people and freight between major centres and to as much of the rural population as possible.Freight services will be terminated on May 19 and passenger services by May 31. The closure will see 224 people lose their jobs and hundreds of rural Saskatchewan communities without any bus service. The province of Manitoba to the east already faces that situation. There is no service on highway 16, the Yellowhead, that runs from Winnipeg to Saskatoon, through much of Western Manitoba. Our main bus service is Greyhound Lines with offices in Austin Texas and owned in Scotland by FirstGroup. Any service that is not profitable is discontinued. The idea that a bus service might be operated to serve all areas of the province is a non-starter. This was the case even under our former supposedly socialist New Democratic Party (NDP) government. We now have a Conservative government and the issue will not even be discussed. The Saskatchewan Party government of premier Brad Wall in Saskatchewan is also conservative. Now they too will enjoy Greyhound as their main bus service. There is no money to be made providing transportation to the small towns of Saskatchewan except on a few main highways so they will all be without service.
Norquay resident, Cara Severson, said: "I can't believe this. I don't know what I'm going to do, I won't be traveling any more. It's going to be quite a nightmare. You guys don't know what you're doing to small communities. Think about the little people." She hoped that Premier Wall could reconsider the decision. A Nigerian immigrant did not know how she would bring her daughter into Saskatoon for medical treatment. An elderly Saskatoon woman who took the bus to the Manitou Springs Resort and Mineral Spa near the small town of Watrous said she will simply not be able to go there anymore.
Tareq Sunny of Yorkton takes the bus every month on business and said: "It's shutting down forever? My life is shutting down." While the decision is estimated to save the province about 17 million a year it also ends over 200 jobs and deprives many, in rural Saskatchewan especially, of a valuable transportation service. Only two of STC's 27 different routes are profitable. No doubt carriers such as Greyhound will service these routes while the 25 other routes will simply be without service.
New Democratic Party critic Cathy Sproule said that the loss of STC would have a negative impact on seniors in rural areas and people who depended on the bus service for medical appointments and deliveries. Sproule said: "We have a minister who promised a year ago that they wouldn't be touching STC because of the valuable service it provides." A survey of customers in the STC's latest annual report showed that 93 percent of customers were satisfied and 95 percent of parcel customers.Jennifer Campeau who was minister in charge of STC in 2016 said: "By linking communities, people and businesses, STC serves the customer and the shareholder. STC provides citizens with access to essential services in larger and rural communities. Entrepreneurs across the province have access to shipping services that can supply parts or distribute products, expanding markets beyond their local community." Even though the passenger service is to continue until May many routes were cancelled just hours before the announcement of STC's termination was announced in the budget. Apparently the cancellations were made to allow management to meet with STC staff, a move that shows no concern about customers.

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