Editor's View: Time to see bus as essential service

As more information comes to light about the effects the end of Greyhound bus services will have on Flin Flon, the more it seems residents will have to rally hard if they want the service to continue.

Kasper Transportation, a Thunder Bay, Ont., based transportation company announced on July 9 – right on the heels of the announcement Greyhound would cease western Canadian operations – that it will run a bus route from Winnipeg to Thompson, and another route from Winnipeg to Regina, to Saskatoon, to Prince Albert.

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Flin Flon doesn’t appear to be on the route list at this time.

Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsey, of the NDP, called on the provincial government last week to show leadership in terms of ensuring rural and northern communities have access to transportation.

Lindsey said the loss of the Greyhound bus service will exacerbate cuts the government has made to health care in our area.

It may be hard for the official opposition to find a leg to stand on regarding the issue of subsidizing or providing bus service – it was the NDP-run provincial government that ended seven years of subsidies to Greyhound in 2016.

But Lindsey has a point. For many residents of remote northern communities, particularly those with aging populations, bus transportation is an essential service, just like highways, health care and housing, all of which are provided or subsidized at some level by the provincial government.

But in this case, the provincial government has said it won’t provide subsidies for a bus service.

Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler has said the provincial government is not considering putting money toward subsidizing bus service, noting, “We‘re not going to get into the business of business.”

So Flin Flonners and so many others in northern Manitoba who rely on the bus are, it seems, left to cross their fingers a private company will provide bus service to the area, or rely on expensive plane tickets and unpredictable ride-sharing to travel.

A lack of bus service to Flin Flon will also affect residents who do not use the service to travel. Many local businesses rely on the service to transfer goods to and from other parts of the province and country overnight. If businesses decide or are forced to use more expensive courier companies, their costs will increase and as a result, so will the costs of local goods and services. In that way, most area residents could be affected by the closure.

Sitting at the end of Highway 10 likely doesn’t make Flin Flon the most convenient or strategic place to run a bus service to, but that service is something the community relies on.

Bus service has been something that keeps the community sustainable, and as an essential service, it is something the provincial government should support. With the stance the government has taken, it’s up to local stakeholders to tell the government how important the service is.

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