British Columbia

Pro-U.S. bias alleged in Olympic bus contracts

Some B.C. bus companies say they've been shut out of the Olympic dream, after failing to land transportation contracts for the 2010 Winter Games.

'Did they search enough in Canada to ensure Canadians are doing the jobs?'

B.C. coach lines operator Brendan McCullough says not enough Canadian companies got contracts for Olympic transportation. (CBC)

Some B.C. bus companies say they've been shut out of the Olympic dream, after failing to land transportation contracts for the 2010 Winter Games.

Vancouver's Olympic Organizing Committee hired a Florida-based company called Gameday Management Group to take care of Olympic transportation, prompting some in the motor coach industry to criticize an apparent a pro-American bias.

"We're hosting the games. It's our taxpayer money being spent on this, so the local carriers should be given a fair shake," said Brendan McCullough of McCullough Coach Lines in Victoria.

"It seems to me that the Canadian carriers, and in particular the local carriers, are being passed over for carriers in the States," McCulloch told CBC News.

McCullough said Gameday is leasing the hundreds of buses to shuttle everyone from athletes to journalists and spectators, but the U.S. company isn't including enough Canadian vehicles.

"Our drivers are experienced in mountain driving and snow driving so to bring coaches from the south of Texas to operate in Whistler in winter conditions doesn't make any sense to me," said McCullough, whose company has been in business for 30 years.

"I had a phone call from a Texas operator who is sending 20 coaches and he was wondering if he needs to put winter tires on," McCullough said.

A company can command $1,800 a day for a bus and two drivers. And the potential of 30 days of Olympic work would come at a slow time of the year for the industry.

Canadian companies still might have a chance

Last year, both provincial and national industry associations wrote to the federal government, expressing concerns that U.S. drivers would be fast-tracked for work permits.

"Did they search enough in Canada to ensure Canadians are doing the jobs?" said Brian Crow, president of Motor Coach Canada.

VANOC's Renee Smith-Valade says Canadian companies still might have a chance to win some Olympic bus contracts. ((CBC))

Crow admits that some local operators weren't selected because they missed application deadlines and have aging bus fleets.

About 1,000 buses are in now place for the Games, with two-thirds of them coming in from the U.S.

VANOC officials maintain the process was fair, and said deadlines were extended to ensure Canadian companies could compete. And they said it's possible that still more buses will be needed.  

"We want every Canadian company who wants to be part of the program to have a chance to do so," VANOC communications vice-president Renée Smith-Valade told CBC News.

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