By Jeff Labine
The former minister of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company isn’t ready to see the bus service go.
Wednesday marks the final day for the STC following the announcement the provincially owned bus line would be eliminated after 71 years. The main reason for the decision, according to the Sask. Party, was the bus service didn’t generate enough money to cover the costs to run it and few people took advantage of it.
But Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody doesn’t buy that story.
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.”
Cody is referring to the recent decision by the government to allow up to 49 per cent of a Crown corporation like SaskTel to be sold off.
So far, there have been no announcements about SaskTel being sold off.
Cody said there’s a chance the service could be revived later down the road in a smaller capacity. That could mean a number of things including smaller buses or a reduced schedule.
The Prince Albert councillor wasn’t the only one upset about the elimination of the STC.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1374, which represents STC employees, took the province to court over the matter in an effort to try and buy more time for the service while also triggering a judicial review.
Cody said he didn’t believe the court challenge would stand much of a chance and understood where the union was coming from as hundreds of jobs are on the line.
Minister of Crown Investments Corporation Joe Hargrave, who is also the MLA for Prince Albert Carlton, said he feels for the 244 STC employees, calling them hard working.
He argued the discussions around closing the STC have been going on for decades.
“The NDP back in the day, which Don Cody was part of the NDP government, thought (the subsidy) was unsustainable at $5,” he said. “Now that it is $94 and it is costing us $17 million, that’s not sustainable. Not when there’s so many other needs in education, health care, in social services.”
Hargrave said he didn’t believe cutting the STC would hurt the North as there are still many ways for people to get around and mentioned many groups have applied to the highway traffic board for operating certificates.
He said he is optimistic many areas will be covered by these groups, which could be non-profit or for profit.