Pending end to Greyhound service a shock to Manitoba customers
Greyhound is ending service in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba
News that Greyhound Canada is set to cease nearly all service in Western Canada before the end of the year has left many Manitobans who rely on the bus feeling stranded.
Greyhound Canada is ending its passenger bus and freight services in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and cancelling all but one route in B.C., as of Oct. 31, the company said Monday.
For regular riders like Dauphin's Jean Grassick, the announcement came as a shock.
Grassick uses the bus to travel into Winnipeg every three months to receive regular treatments for a progressive eye condition that's left her unable to drive.
Without the treatments, she says she'll go completely blind.
"I have to rely now on private rides," she told CBC News Monday, adding the train service is too "erratic" for her to depend on.
"It doesn't run everyday and we don't have a train station so in the winter you don't want to be standing by the edge of the rail line… hoping that it's on time."
The changes will make Ontario and Quebec the only regions where the familiar running-dog logo will continue to grace Canadian highways. All Greyhound routes in Ontario and Quebec will continue to operate except for one: the Trans-Canada, which links a number of smaller communities between Winnipeg and Sudbury, Ont.
The company blames a 41 per cent decline in ridership since 2010, persistent competition from subsidized national and inter-regional passenger transportation services, the growth of new low-cost airlines, regulatory constraints and the growth of car ownership.
"This decision is regretful and we sympathize with the fact that many small towns are going to lose service," Greyhound Canada senior vice-president Stuart Kendrick said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"But simply put, the issue that we have seen is the routes in rural parts of Canada — specifically Western Canada — are just not sustainable anymore."
Right now Greyhound services 114 communities in Manitoba, and sees 92,000 passengers a year in this province, according to a company spokesperson.
It runs five buses running on five routes daily out of Winnipeg, two heading north, two west, and one eastward bound.
Impact on First Nations
The Assembly of Manitoba Chief says the shutdown will have a negative impact on First Nations, especially in northern communities, which rely on Greyhound to get to urban areas for services including medical appointments.
AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas is calling on both the provincial and federal governments to help First Nations and others in remote communities in the north fill the gap Greyhound's departure will leave.
"The more that we take the opportunity to take over these types of things — to provide services for ourselves — the better off we all are," he said.
"First Nations, but also the people of the north, we live where we live and we want to look out for ourselves but we need to get meaningful partners and the political will so we can achieve these things and we can look out for ourselves."
Dumas says he spoke with the Prime Minister's office Monday.
"They relayed to me that it is something that they are paying close attention to and that they're going to work in an concerted effort to find a solution that is going to be workable for everyone," he said.
"It's far too often that these decisions are made and then people don't ask questions until it's too late."
No subsidies from province
Dumas says he was disappointed Greyhound did not speak to his office before the announcement, a complaint echoed by Manitoba's Crown Services minister, Ron Schuler.
Schuler thinks the bus line's departure could be a business opportunity, but the timeline is tight.
"We are perturbed at the timeline, we're perturbed with the fact that they're looking at the end of October, in pulling out," he told reporters at the Legislative Building Monday.
"That's not a lot of time for individuals to put a business case together to look for financing."
While Schuler said the province is hopeful the private sector will take advantage of the opportunity — including the possibility of a First Nations developed bus service in the north — he was clear his government has no intention of providing subsidies to help spur the economic activity.
"Our government certainly won't be in the business of being in business," he said.
Kendrick said Greyhound Canada has raised concerns with provincial and federal officials over the years, and wanted to ensure both levels of government were "fully aware" of the situation.
Greyhound Canada has long advocated for a community funding model to allow any private carrier to bid on essential rural services, he said.
The company will continue to push Ottawa to look at improving transport in northern communities, said Kendrick.
Nationally 415 Greyhound employees will lose their job when the routes are closed, including 64 people in Manitoba.
With files from the Canadian Press