Transit union wants subsidies of $250K per bus route after Greyhound departure

The president of the union that represents Greyhound Canada drivers is calling on the federal government to invest a projected $250,000 or more per route to maintain transit services in Western Canada.

Amalgamated Transit Union president wants to meet with federal government to talk options for keeping service

Greyhound Canada announced it will end passenger bus and freight services in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba by Oct. 31. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The president of the union that represents Greyhound Canada drivers is calling on the federal government to invest a projected $250,000 or more per route to maintain bus service in Western Canada.

John DiNino, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Canada, which represents more than 400 Greyhound drivers, is also asking for a meeting with Ottawa to discuss how that spending should work, and whether it would be directed to Greyhound itself or to a new transit system.

"Either one of those would be appropriate. What we really need to do since this all unfolded in early July is meet with the government and have that constructive dialogue," DiNino said in an interview on CBC Manitoba's Radio Noon.

"We've had no communication. Our members have been left in the dark."

The union has been pushing for subsidies since Greyhound Canada announced in July its intentions to end passenger and freight bus service in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and cancel all but one route in B.C. — a U.S.-run service between Vancouver and Seattle.

On Thursday, DiNino said those subsidies would likely be "upwards of $250,000 per route," although the specific numbers aren't clear.

In July, Greyhound blamed 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 for the lack of profitability on the routes it's cancelling.

Greyhound Canada senior vice-president Stuart Kendrick told the Canadian Press in July that the company has long advocated for a community funding model to allow any private carrier to bid on essential rural services.

On Thursday, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said his department is working "as quickly as possible" to gather data about the affected routes and will make a decision about any further action in consultation with the provinces.

Deputy ministers of transport from the federal and provincial governments will meet early next month, he said.

'Perfect world'

Route closures are expected to take effect on Oct. 31. DiNino said they will affect roughly two million Canadians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in July he'd asked Garneau to find solutions to Greyhound's withdrawal.

"I'm taking that job very, very seriously to look at, what are the possibilities. I've already written to the provincial transport ministers. We'll be getting together," Garneau said Thursday.

"At the moment, we'll be gathering data about all the routes that are affected and when that is done, we will decide what we're going to do next."

DiNino said "in a perfect world," that would be a publicly run transit system operated by Ottawa or municipal governments.

"It would be like putting money from your right pocket to your left pocket. This is an investment in your own people," DiNino said. "If we can't move Canada, then we have problems."