The recent decision to eliminate the three bus routes by our Minister responsible to STC, Don McMorris, has met with strong opposition from our elected Southwest officials and numerous letters from concerned citizens and organizations. As an elected Director of our Senior Citizen Association of Saskatchewan, representing 460 seniors in Region J, I have been asked to express our concern for the loss of the only means of transportation for those seniors who rely and depend on this service for medical attention which they need in larger centers.
On very short notice, we were informed of the proposed termination of our bus service in the Soutwest. I congratulate Mary Thomson for taking a stand on this issue as she stated our Southwest is very dependent on this bus route as it is the only means of transportation and freight service along the Red Coat Trail and the 13 affected communities including Lafleche and Gravelbourg. The other two communities are affected to a lesser degree due to their location to larger centers and some have Greyhound Service on the main line.
I feel that one reason that our STC has a $300,000 deficit is due to financial mismanagement through the last several years. Several years ago I rode this bus numerous times to seek cancer treatment at the Alan Blair facility in Regina, and, to my knowledge, our fare rate has not kept up with the overhead costs of maintaining this service.
I think that instead of eliminating this valuable service, a slight increase in charges to passenger and freight service could have been implemented thus bringing down the $300,000 deficit to a more manageable level.
In the recent sitting of the Legislature, the Opposition Critic for STC brought forward the concerns our rural residents have for the possible loss of our publicly owned bus line. McMorris' response was to go back to the 1990 era when he accused the previous government for the closure of some rural hospitals and bus services. I would say to Minister McMorris that we are not talking about any past circumstances but we are more concerned about the present and future consequences that the elimination of our bus service will have on our rural communities who are so dependent on this bus service to stay viable and prosper. His recent reply to this situation facing our rural areas leads me to believe that he has already made the decision to close down our service from STC regardless of the letters that we have sent to the Highway Traffic Board.
What other surprises does Mr. McMorris have for our other STC bus lines? Is this the first step for privatizing our publicly owned transportation system on which we are dependent? Why have we been asked for our opinion on this subject when it appears Mr. McMorris has already made the decision to close down our bus service? When does the democratic process come into play?
Lawrence Pommier - Shaunavon, Sask. Senior Director Region J