The Nova Scotia government has terminated its contract with Stock Transportation in the Halifax region, starting in 2020.
Education Minister Zach Churchill announced Thursday that the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) will issue a Request for Proposals for a new busing contract.
“The issues that parents and students have been experiencing in Halifax, people in other regions are not experiencing those issues to the same extent,” Churchill told reporters.
The move will end the 10-year contract between Stock and the former Halifax Regional School Board.
The contract is currently in its third year. Stock Transportation will continue to operate in HRM in the coming school year and until a new contract is in place.
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Churchill says the department sees a problem with the contract, as it “doesn’t allow them to provide adequate transportation for students.”
“When you don’t have competition, when you do have a monopoly that can impact service standards,” Churchill said.
“It’ll allow smaller providers to submit a proposal.”
HRCE will take over communication and routing in the region starting September 2020. That is expected to cost nearly $500,000 during the first year, tough the province expects to recoup some of the costs beyond that.
A new provincial student transportation policy is also in development which is expected to be in place at that time.
Elwin Leroux, executive director of HRCE, says the contract was structured so that either party could give one-year notice to terminate without penalty.
“We actually want to change the foundation on which this is built,” Leroux said. “We hired stock to deliver students to school regularly, reliably and on time, that hasn’t happened.”
“What we’ve said is this contract is not working.”
Nearly 400 people are employed by Stock in the HRM, and many are likely to continue fixing and driving buses after a new contract is in place.
“These are the people that are going to be delivering the service no matter what the provider is because the service is going to be needed,” NSGEU president Jason MacLean said.
In a statement, Stock Transportation said it is disappointed by the abrupt decision to end the contract prematurely, but that they also share the view that the system they’ve been asked to operate under has flaws.
Flaws, they say, only government can address.
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