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.

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Sights in Hawai’i

Last month I went with Jeri to Hawaii for a long-planned, pre-booked vacation. I wouldn’t have intentionally gone to Trump America, it just worked out that way. I had planned on spending a day at Pearl Harbor, but did in a different way. The historic sites would have cost over $100 each, and I’ve grown a little tired of the American US Park-style presentation of US history. So we skipped it (but not entirely).

I started the warm day by walking to the airport after taking the bus. That was an adventure. We stopped in Edmonton, then we had supper in Vancouver airport Canucks’ bar after US pre-clearance security. They now have you scan your own passport, as they take your photo, and ask you basic questions about your trip. Then a human looks at the paper later and asks you questions again, before waving you through to the USA while still in the airport.

We flew over what looked to be Victoria on Vancouver Island, then the sun went all the way down as it outran us, and the ocean below was completely dark. It was my first over-ocean flight. Eventually we reached the Hawaiian islands, and I snapped some photos of what I guess was Honolulu below, before we landed. The airport was not busy at that time of night, and the ad at the luggage claim said there was a shuttle available. I’d also read about it in a travel book on the plane. Their ticket selling person was not visible, so we and others had to wait at the shuttle for them to come along and process our payments, but eventually we got into Waikiki after a short drive. The security guard at our building gave us the key that had been set aside for us, and we were in our room in no time.

The waterway north of Waikiki beach was polluted. There was an unprotected bike lane, in the door-zone, down the busy one-way street beside it.
classic car parked on street
The walkway was attractive, and well used by joggers and cyclists.

Tiny birds no bigger than a cigarette

litter in waterway

litter in waterway

Several busy intersections were blessed with scramble crossing.
Scramble crossing

The view of the sunset from the first building we stayed in, wasn’t entirely spectacular, but was still special.
Sunset
There was a man below in the street shouting at traffic for hours. We had a nap, and he was still/or back at it when we woke. The time difference was 6 hours, so jet lag was definitely a thing. 3pm felt almost like bedtime in energy levels. One the upside, we could get up at 7am with no problem at all.

continued…

Wood Mountain: Population 21

When I was ten, my family picked up an exchange student from the Regina airport. It was Winter. As the South American boy rode with me on the van bench, across an open prairie between Regina and Moose Jaw, he asked how many people lived in Wood Mountain. I replied proudly, “Forty people live in Wood Mountain.” I knew, because I could count every one by going through each home in my mind, up and down the three streets, and three avenues. “Forty thousand?” he prompted for more details. “No, forty people.”

The school closed about three years later. The second last elevator burned in 1997 due to lightning strikes. The last wooden elevator in the village was demolished in 2014. There’s still a Community Hall, a rural post office and RM/Village office, a fire hall, a church, and Department of Highways buildings, and there are 21 people who live right in the village. More than a few live on the farms and ranches nearby. It’s still a community, and it still matters. Now, it’s Population 21.

It’s not even the second time Wood Mountain has been featured in a National Film Board documentary, but it is the first with my parents.

Shutting out CTF would help Saskatchewan people tackle moral deficit

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation may not seem to consume many resources, but that’s an illusion. They occupy our newspapers. They occupy our newscasts. The amount of public time put into debating their hair brained theories has been significant over the decades.

“Governments routinely increase spending by a percentage point or two. Shouldn’t they be able to trim a little when necessary?”

Government funded media should trim coverage of the CTF, as it has become necessary to talk about positive social changes available to us. Instead the media is focusing on bad ideas that benefit only the oligarchy that operates the CTF.

“If we act now, we can trim the budget with a scalpel rather than a chainsaw. Reducing spending by about 1.8 per cent would eliminate Saskatchewan’s operational deficit.”

So trim the Regina bypass a little, or the football stadium, or the CCS plant in Estevan. Stop paying millions in fines to Big Oil because of a bad contract that was a bad deal for taxpayers.

Here’s an even better idea [I say with as much modesty as the CTF ever uses]. Each media organization promoting the CTF’s whining about the cost of STC should buy a bus ticket and a motel room for a traveling journalist, and send them out into rural Saskatchewan to talk to people on buses, and in small towns. Do that once a week. Make it a regular feature if it’s popular. Imagine a journalist surviving in Saskatchewan without a car, and only their camera, notebook, phone, and wits [and a reasonable expense account, and perhaps a folding bicycle].

Heck, I’d consider breaking my Postmedia boycott even if they used this idea to gather real Saskatchewan news and stories. It makes a hell of a lot of more sense than depending upon media releases and crappy oligarchy op-eds from the seven member CTF, for news content filler.

Solar All Over California

Train station

Pawn shop

On our Amtrak trip through southern and central California, I watched the dry and irrigated fields fly by me at 133km/h. We stopped for the night in Bakersfield (the most conservative city in America, some figures show), and it was 41 degrees even with the sun down. The cement around the pool at night warmed my feet as if the hot sun was beating down on it only a moment earlier.

Large #solar farm north of Wasco CA
This large solar farm appears to be the one mentioned in this story about a Hanford Dairy.

Bridge and plane

"PALM BARF" in L.A.

Oil in L.A.
Los Angeles oil production. You can see how dry it is there.

2015-08-21_07-05-25

Hills covered with wind turbines north of Oakland.
Hills filled with wind turbines in California

Metal tends to rust near the ocean:
Rusty beach cruiser