Majority of Saskatchewan opposes government-run bus service: poll
In the weeks following Greyhound‘s announcement that they would be eliminating its western Canadian bus routes, other provinces are stepping in to help fill the void.
A new poll from the Angus Reid Institute suggests that the majority of Canadians are in favour of the federal and provincial governments funding a rural or northern bus service.
The survey asked Canadians which of two statements was closest to their point of view: “Government should step in to maintain rural and northern bus services, they are vital to communities,” or “It should not be up to government to maintain these services, private businesses can fill the gaps if there is enough demand.” More than half, 56 per cent, of respondents voted in favour of government-supported bus services, while 44 per cent believe it’s up to private business to provide the service.
While support is broad for a federal or provincially subsidized service, the majority oppose the move in the Prairies. In Alberta, 59 per cent said the government shouldn’t be relied on to maintain the rural bus service; 56 per cent of respondents in Saskatchewan believed the same.
But according to the Angus Reid Institute, opinion in the poll wasn’t based on where in Canada, or the size of the community the respondents lived in.
“What is notable that it’s politics and generational lines that actually drives opinion on this issue,” Shachi Kurl, executive director at the Angus Reid Institute, said.
Kurl said those who voted for the NDP or Liberal Party in the last election were more likely to support government intervention for rural bus services.
“Even though the Greyhound service cuts affect Alberta and Saskatchewan, those conservative roots among voters in those two provinces is something that has more people in each of those provinces saying ‘No, government shouldn’t be getting involved,'” Kurl said.
Alberta is currently in the process of expanding a pilot project to provide residents in rural communities with a bus service. The government said the pilot project routes will assist about 40,000 people.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, the government is showing no interest in subsidizing a rural bus service. It said ridership on the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) buses decreased 77 per cent since 1980 and 35 per cent since 2012.
“The publicly subsidized operation of bus services remains unfeasible in Saskatchewan and would require massive taxpayer subsidies of over $80 million over the next five years,” a statement from the government to Global News said. “As such, the decision to wind-down operations at the STC will not be revisited.”
Instead, the government is pointing to private companies that are working to provide the service in Saskatchewan. While the government said the work private companies are doing is encouraging, they aren’t planning on providing any subsidy to private companies to operate in the province.
But not everyone in the province is supporting private companies taking the burden of rural bus services.
“Saskatchewan is an example of how the private sector does not work — we had 10 companies take over for STC — there are two companies left,” said Cindy Hanson, a member of the group Save STC. “The private sector is not going to be the solution.”
According to the poll, although support was high for government rural bus services, only five per cent of respondents were actually affected by the Greyhound cuts.
The poll also found that more people in Western Canada were more aware of the issue than in other parts of the country.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.