The Core Of the Problem Is Austerity

In the Saskatchewan Legislature Thursday, Premier Brad Wall says a decision to stop STC bus service and lay-off 250 people did not come easy.

Wall says the decision was difficult but ridership had declined significantly.

“As ridership declines and the costs increase, that per-passenger subsidy is well up over 90-dollars,” said Premier Brad Wall. “Almost 100-dollars per passenger, Mr. Speaker. And at some point you have to ask the question; is that the core function of government? To subsidize to 90-dollars per passenger for the bus company?”

STC’s the very definition of a “sustainable core service“! It costs less than a municipal transit service!

@PremierBradWall March 22, 2017:
#skbudget outlines a 3yr plan to balance: controlled spending, sustainable core services, less reliance on resource rev & keep econ strong.

==

There is presently no replacement bus service as the Minister indicated there would be. People are being stranded daily now, in Saskatoon and Regina even, unable to directly get to the other city without desperately going through Winnipeg, hitchhiking (illegally in Regina) or flying on expensive airline tickets.

Today, and last week, Greyhound’s website indicates “no service available” between Regina and Saskatoon! I’ve been in contact with Greyhound perhaps more than the incompetent Saskatchewan Government, to try and fix this problem.

There are companies other than Greyhound applying to operate in Saskatchewan, but the government has dragged on with deciding, until after the deadline arbitrarily set for STC’s privatization closure and subsequent sell off.

“The province is confident many of the routes that STC covered will be taken over by other privately owned companies.
Minister Responsible Joe Hargrave says they have already received an offer from a major bus company to take over some routes that will be cancelled when STC is done and Saskatchewan is the only province that still operates a bus company like STC.”

The Highway Traffic Board is supposed to be independent but……
“The HTB is, according to its website, a “completely independent body” that consists of members appointed by the Sask. Party government.
Its chair, Bill Missal, is a long-time Saskatchewan Party supporter who has, according to Elections Saskatchewan, donated to the Sask. Party.
He has also worked with Sask. Party MLA and former Highways Minister Don McMorris at election time.”

You might also like:
https://saskboy.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/weak-transportation-week/
https://saskboy.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/transportation-not-meeting-demand/
https://saskboy.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/stc-bus-shut-down-by-callous-saskparty/

Advertisements

Weak Transportation Week

Sent to a Saskatchewan Government employee who announced Saskatchewan Transportation Week immediately after STC bus and parcel services were closed to be sold off much later:

Dear Brandy Leippi:

Reading your press release citing the proclamation of this week as Saskatchewan Transportation Week, I was struck by how contradictory the Government’s messaging is in juxtaposition to reality.
http://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2017/june/01/transportation-week
“this week is about recognizing the thousands of people who make it happen.””
Hundreds were laid off on Thursday at STC.

““Investing in priority areas like transportation infrastructure is a major part of our government’s plan to ensure the economy remains strong,” Marit said.”
Failing to invest in rural and inter-city bus service will have the opposite effect, obviously.

““An efficient transportation network is the key foundation of a strong economy; nothing moves until the roads are built.”
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/highway-near-cumberland-house-called-saskatchewan-s-worst-1.1307838
4 years later:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/highway-123-cumberland-house-sask-1.4132668

“Since 2008, the Government of Saskatchewan has invested $7.4 billion in transportation infrastructure, improving more than 12,000 km of Saskatchewan highways.”
And has in that time also removed transportation options for people who don’t own a private car or cannot or will not drive for a variety of reasons.

If you’d like to turn this very obvious slide around, please help restore STC bus services at the very least until private sector replacements are in place. Investing in public EV charging infrastructure along major highway routes is probably a constructive means to work with Ottawa on improving Saskatchewan’s infrastructure, too.

Thank-you for your time.
Sincerely,
John Klein
Regina, SK

CC my MLA

The Sask Heavy Con comments in the press release were grating too. That association has been fighting the carbon tax with the Premier, instead of finding cost-saving ways to reduce their emissions, or lobby for ‘carrots’ to modernize their equipment as opposed to the carbon tax ‘stick’.

The Saskatchewan Government and SaskParty are really this obtuse.

Transportation Not Meeting Demand

It’s been kind of a bad year for transportation in Saskatchewan. Aside from the potential Supercharger for Swift Current, there haven’t been many tangible bright spots for Saskatchewan.

  • Premier Wall rejects the carbon tax plan to reduce emissions
  • SGI says they’re not considering a rebate on Zero Emission Vehicles, as they once had 5 years ago until Minister McMillian of SGI (now President McMillian of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Procurers) cancelled the rebate. Gee, no bad optics there, right? Just an oil industry lobbyist directly encouraging people to buy trucks over EV or hybrid vehicles.
  • The SaskParty closed and sold off the STC Crown, with no replacement for bus service apparently in mind. As a result, there’s no bus service between Saskatoon and Regina! I emailed a company reported in the news as seeking to offer service, and they replied:

    We have not been approved for scheduled passenger service yet

    Sincerely
    Mitch Blyth
    General Manager
    Carpe Diem Group featuring our new Land Jet mobile office division.
    Regina, Saskatoon & Yorkton Sk.
    []531-9626

  • Cumberland House still doesn’t have sufficient transportation to/from it.
  • Via Rail offered unlimited $150 passes and travel in July to youth under 25, then only to 1867 youth, then several thousand, but stopped before demand was satisfied, and failed to offer the pass for additional months, or add additional train service to meet the obvious demand. Saskatchewan only has Via service to 2 cities, Saskatoon and Melville. Regina, Moose Jaw, and Swift Current are left out even though they are on the Trans-Canada as is Calgary in Alberta.

Considering I was hoping a passenger rail line between Saskatoon and Regina could one day be built, it’s especially appalling that the government has ended bus service between the major cities this year.

So what can one person do? I attended the large rally at STC headquarters in March. I’ve pushed on City Council several times encouraging them to have Regina Transit buy STC resources and operate it on profitable routes as a money maker for the City, while providing a valuable service the province has abdicated itself from.

STC Bus Shut Down By Callous SaskParty

Today is a terrible day in Saskatchewan history. The Brad Wall government has ended public transportation to most Saskatchewan communities. There is tomorrow no bus service between Saskatoon and Regina, a sort of event you’d expect after a major natural disaster, not an incompetent government decision poised to directly harm thousands of people, and inconvenience tens of thousands more.

Cody, who served as the minister overseeing STC back in 1978, argues the decision to shut the bus service down was philosophical, not economical.

“There’s no such thing as a profitable transportation system,” he said. “It simply isn’t there. They tell us you can’t afford $15 million or so over the next five years. If that’s the case, then why would you sell SaskTel, which makes $130 million? There’s a philosophy here and I don’t think it really has anything to do with the money.”

Greyhound and RCMP Bring #StarlightTours To Manitoba

Do you remember the Starlight Tours? Now you don’t have to be drunk to experience this police mistreatment, only be a First Nations person who is unwell.

A shameful story of racism out of Manitoba today. This is one of the companies the SaskParty is looking toward to offer replacement bus service due to the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) closure and sell-off happening in 2 days!

Spence said he pleaded with the police for help, asking if there was a way to get a ride or find some place to get away from the cold.

“They said there was nothing around here. I said, ‘What should I do?’ They said, ‘Your best bet is to start walking,’” Spence recalls.

Greyhound said in its defence:
“After further investigation, it appears the customer may not have been intoxicated and may have been experiencing a non-alcohol related issue.”

What the hell do they mean by “a non-alcohol related issue.”?

“Spence says at one point he was being followed by a pack of dogs.

“I just kept calm, and kept walking and eventually the dogs left me alone,” he said.”

““They should compensate me. I was scared for my life,” he said.”

This man was thrown off the bus, literally to wild dogs. Greyhound should be giving this man free bus rides for life, for this horrible mistreatment.

Letter to MLA regarding STC Closure/Privatization

Dear Mrs. Beaudry-Mellor:

I’m dismayed by your government’s cut of all rural SK bus service. This is a horrible decision that isolates people in small towns and cities, and harms people who cannot drive including people who are blind, or unable or unwilling to operate a private motor vehicle. It will increase the cost of healthcare delivery. Package delivery to rural Saskatchewan is also harmed. Charter buses will be harder to obtain in our province now too.

Rather than cut an essential public transportation service that will literally never be offered by the private sector or even a co-operative (because it will never make money), the PST could have been raised to 6.5%. This would pay to improve public transportation across the province. Did you realize that your government gives close to $0/year to regular public transportation, which makes it a Canadian anomaly. In an increasingly urbanizing province, might it be a good idea to ensure people don’t sit in traffic jams daily? One could assume that the SaskParty doesn’t care about public transportation, people without cars in rural Saskatchewan, or building solutions to reduce air pollution.

I hope you can work to reverse this short-sighted cut, because I fear that once the service is privatized, another responsible government will not take the time to build a crown service that is required for prosperity in rural Saskatchewan.

Sincerely,

John Klein

Regina

P.S. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is no doubt overjoyed by this privatization. I asked them in 2015 for an example of a private bus service that would serve as the model for one in Saskatchewan to use if we lost STC. They suggested one in Hong Kong. Seriously. Saskatchewan is so much like Hong Kong apparently. I guess if you don’t reverse the cut, the SaskParty could bring in consultants from Hong Kong to help. If they cost less than $12Mil to consult, you’d still save money.

UPDATE: Instead of the “human conversation” promised in her Facebook ads, I got a form letter response that didn’t address my points or ideas.

Hello John

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the provincial budget.

As you know, Saskatchewan is faced with a difficult challenge due to resource revenue being down over $1 billion for three years, tax revenue down due to resource sector slowdown (corporate tax), and a growing population adding pressure to vital services. Our plan includes controlling and reducing spending, modernizing and expanding the tax system, investing in priority areas, and returning to balance over three years.

Meeting the challenge requires very difficult choices, not the least of which is winding down STC. Despite the company’s best efforts, ridership continues to drop

and costs continue to soar, the per passenger subsidy ballooning from $25 per passenger to $94 in the last decade alone. The growing burden is not sustainable and the government made the decision that the funding would be best used on core priorities.

{Why is public transportation not a “core priority” for the SaskParty?}

Knowing your concerns is helpful as we move forward. I take feedback from constituents seriously and truly appreciate you taking the time to write.

Sincerely,

Tina

Sent on behalf of

The Honourable Tina Beaudry-Mellor, MLA
196 Massey Road, Regina, SK   S4S 4N5
T: []
E: []

I’ve included corrections and facts that supplement Tina’s letter.

STC Bus Service Couldn’t Survive the SaskParty

This news makes me so mad and disappointed. The future of Saskatchewan got a little more bleak today.

“What are the core services that people expect from government – and it is not necessarily a bus company,” Finance Minister Kevin Doherty said Wednesday.

“As for the short window of time before service ends, the province said new buses were on order and they would have to pay for them.

One of the worst parts of this is that the effing CTF finally gets their way. Now there’s no feasible means to exist in a small town without a car. If you’re blind, or can’t drive, you’re screwed. It’s a heartless cut that hurts seniors, environmentalists, people with disabilities who cannot drive, and makes life less likely to thrive in small town Saskatchewan.

ADDED:

“You guys don’t know what you’re doing to small communities. Think about the little people.”

One Nigerian immigrant doesn’t know how she’ll bring her daughter into Saskatoon for medical appointments. An elderly Saskatoon woman said she won’t be able to travel anymore to the Manitou Springs Resort and Mineral Spa near Watrous. Another man lamented the loss of parcel service as he headed to pick up some car parts ordered from Prince Albert.

My life is shutting down

It’s the sort of problem that cannot be solved without government support. If people could form a co-operative and offer replacement service, they would, but they simply wouldn’t make enough money to offer this vital link between communities. It cannot be overstated what a body blow this is to rural Saskatchewan, and that even includes cities like Weyburn, Humboldt, and Yorkton.