NDP rents former STC bus for campaign stops, promises to rebuild service

·3 min read

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili traded his orange and white campaign van for a green and yellow Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) bus on Monday and pledged to resurrect the shuttered provincial bus service.

Meili rolled into campaign stops in Regina and Moose Jaw promising to rebuild the service, which was shut down in 2017.

The government announced it was "winding down" STC, the Crown corporation that offered bus service to 253 communities in the province, in March 2017.

The NDP rented the bus from a company in Alberta.

In its election platform, the NDP budgeted $41.2 million over four years to resurrect the bus service.

Meili was not able to provide details on when the service would resume under an NDP government or where it would be offered.

"There's a lot of details that have to be worked out once we are in a position to do the work. The commitment is real. You can be 100 per cent sure a Saskatchewan New Democratic government will get STC back on the road," Meili said.

Meili met with media outside the former STC building in Regina. In 2018, the City of Regina purchased the 70,000-square-foot building from the province for a little more than $16 million. It is being renovated and will become the new headquarters for the Regina Police Service.

In 2017, the government said the cost to keep the service running for five years would be at least $85 million.

It said the per-passenger subsidy rose from $25 to $94 over 10 years.

"As ridership has declined and costs have increased, STC's subsidy has reached unsustainable levels," said then-Minister Responsible for STC Joe Hargrave in March 2017.

Craig Edwards/CBC
Craig Edwards/CBC

Meili said cutting the bus service has hit seniors and low-income earners especially hard. He said some of them are now putting themselves at risk.

"They can't get around anymore and they wind up hitchhiking. It's not safe."

Meili said STC did more than transport people, it also operated as a courier service, transporting things like medical samples to labs, drugs and parts for farm equipment.

Sask. Party call out NDP 'scare tactics'

Meili used the six-wheel, decommissioned bus as a symbol of what he called "broken promises" by the Saskatchewan Party.

Meili said the Sask. Party did not campaign on its plan to end the bus service in 2016.

He said voters "can't trust Scott Moe with the public good" and that the Sask. Party plans to cut services, increase taxes and sell Crowns.

The Saskatchewan Party shot back at Meili and the NDP in a statement. It said they were using "the same tired old NDP scare tactics" in a "desperate attempt to save their failing campaign and divert from the $4-billion hole in their election platform."

The Sask. Party said the NDP unsuccessfully used the same strategy in 2007, 2011 and 2016.

"Premier Scott Moe has been clear: taxes will not be raised, Crowns will not be privatized, and we will continue to make key investments in essential services and crown utilities."

The Sask. Party turned to its election platform, which says the party will balance the budget through "a strong economic recovery and a growing economy, without raising taxes or reductions in programs and services."