November 22, 2019

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West needs public bus system to replace Greyhound, transit union says

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsey speaks at a press conference protesting the need for a Canada-wide public bus service, outside The Union Centre at 275 Broadway on Thursday.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsey speaks at a press conference protesting the need for a Canada-wide public bus service, outside The Union Centre at 275 Broadway on Thursday.

One year after Greyhound Canada drove its last passenger in Western Canada, the Amalgamated Transit Union launched a national campaign calling for the establishment of a new, public inter-city transit system.

"In Canada there is no unified bus service west of Sudbury," the union's president, John Di Nino, told media Thursday in Winnipeg.

"We do not believe the (Greyhound) service died an inevitable death, but was, in fact, mismanaged."

Greyhound ran its final route in Manitoba last Halloween, when it ended all service west of northern Ontario, except for its Seattle-Vancouver shuttle.

Since then, several smaller operators have stepped in and replaced most of the routes, though service linking Brandon with Regina, and The Pas with Thompson, has dried up.

Di Nino spoke with media in front of a Northern Bus Lines 1966 Western Flyer Canuck, a vehicle made in Winnipeg that once drove along the very routes that Greyhound abandoned.

He said hundreds of rural communities and remote areas lost have lost their connection with the rest of the country. Residents who once relied on inter-city bus travel were left without dependable transportation for medical appointments, jobs or tourism. Some have had to buy cars, and others have resort to hitchhiking and long-term carpooling, options the union and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs have called unsafe and unfair.

As part of the campaign, the ATU sponsored the production of an audio documentary, Still Waiting for the Bus, by local labour activist and producer Emily Leedham. The documentary features testimony from Prairie residents who've seen increased numbers of hitchhikers, and suggests the loss of Greyhound puts seniors and women — particularly Indigenous women — in harm's way.

"In a rural community, (inter-city transit) is a basic need," Shauna Bell, head of a safe house in Brooks, Alta., says in the hour-long documentary.

A year ago, Ottawa proposed a subsidy for routes that the private sector hadn’t filled during the months leading up to Greyhound’s Prairie pullout. The subsidy requires provinces to pay half the tab, an idea Brian Pallister's Manitoba government rejected.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) Canada President John DiNino during press conference protesting the need for a Canada wide public bus service.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) Canada President John DiNino during press conference protesting the need for a Canada wide public bus service.

Di Nino feels the federal subsidy isn’t sufficient to fill the gaps.

Transport Canada is monitoring the situation and, as of Feb. 1, the department identified 28 per cent of the routes Greyhound served hadn't been replaced by other operators.

The regulator was working Thursday on providing more recent data.

Six companies replaced Greyhound routes in Manitoba last November. Since then, two have ended scheduled service, including a route that connected Winnipeg to Regina and Calgary, which ended by February.

Up North, Saunders Enterprise tried to establish a scheduled route from the Norway House First Nation to Thompson and Winnipeg.

"Lots of buses picked up the slack," said entrepreneur Albert Saunders, whose firm instead stuck with chartered routes.

Two firms offer service on Highway 6 that run between Norway House and Winnipeg. The First Nation also runs its own shuttle to Thompson.

Flin Flon NDP MLA Tom Lindsey supports the ATU initiative.

"Once upon a time, you could get across this country on a bus, but you can't anymore," he said.

"It's not just a city issue, it's not just a provincial issue, it's a Canada-wide issue that needs to be addressed."

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

Dylan Robertson

Dylan Robertson
Parliamentary bureau chief

In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"

Read full biography

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History

Updated on Thursday, October 31, 2019 at 5:52 PM CDT: adds photo

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