As buses around the province make their last trips before the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) is shut down at the end of May, there are still some shiny new STC buses waiting for a first trip.
“Do I wish we didn’t have them? For sure. But we do,” Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for STC, said.
Nine buses were ordered a year ago. Six were cancelled but three 22-passenger buses are currently sitting unused in Saskatoon. They’ve been there since before Christmas, Hargrave said.
“It was appearing as though we needed additional buses a year ago,” Hargrave said. “And they take months to prepare them and build them.”
The three unused buses cost nearly half a million dollars in total. The cost of the six coaches that were cancelled would have been $1,042,473.
The decision to replace buses is left up to STC, Hargrave said.
“It’s part of STC’s normal course of business. They make a plan. They have a five-year plan of ‘We have to replace ‘x’ number of buses per year over the course of time’,” Hargrave said.
“They get so much for additional capital expenditures and that would have been part of their program. It’s not something that we would necessarily get involved in the day-to-day operations of STC.”
Hargrave said the plan was to put the new buses into service once they were actually needed.
“But once the decision was made to wind down STC, it was ‘Why put them into service now and put miles on them’?” he said.
“The fact that they have zero miles on them means that they will bring top dollar when the assets are disposed of by the accounting firm,” Hargrave said.
Opposition House Leader Warren McCall disagreed that the buses will fetch a good price.
“That now they’re trying to spin the fire sale that’s going to go on of STC assets as somehow getting top dollar for the people of Saskatchewan, this continues to defy belief,” McCall said.
“Because [the government] couldn’t make this decision properly and they decided to break their word regarding STC as an essential service, what the price tag on that bungled decision is going to be, we don’t know,” he said.
“But we imagine it’s not going to be chump change.”
Many STC riders are still struggling to come to terms with the decision to close the company and said news that the government bought but didn’t use some buses is shortsighted.
“That’s a shame. Why buy something if you’re not going to use it. I just don’t think it’s wise,” Regina resident Danielle Valiquette said.
“They should have looked beyond, but you know, things do happen, things change,” STC rider Richard Elliott said.
STC was down 18,000 rides from last year while subsidies for the service kept rising, Hargrave said.
STC’s remaining assets, including the new buses, won’t be sold until after the wind down of the company is complete.
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