As Greyhound leaves Western Canada, Quebec bus companies face challenges of their own

Quebec bus companies serving far-reaching corners of the province say they are not immune to the forces that led Greyhound to cut service in Western Canada.

Provincial company says it needs government support to keep running some of its routes

Greyhound passengers collect their luggage after arriving in Vancouver on July 9. Greyhound Canada says it is ending its passenger bus and freight services in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and cancelling all but one route in B.C. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Quebec bus companies serving far-reaching corners of the province say they are not immune to the forces that led Greyhound to cut service in Western Canada.

The U.S.-based bus company's decision this week to end routes that run through Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, northwestern Ontario and rural British Columbia has triggered concerns among rural and First Nations communities who depend on the service.

Pierre Maheux, the manager of Autobus Maheux, which services parts of rural Quebec, said he could soon be forced to cut back service on all but his most profitable route, which runs from Montreal to Rouyn-Noranda.

"Greyhound's decision reflects very well the issue that all intercity carriers are experiencing in the country," he said.

Maheux said the only way he can keep operating in some areas is with support from the government. In Quebec, intercity bus carriers are eligible for subsidies if they meet certain conditions.

Orléans Express, another bus company that operates bus lines in rural Quebec, told CBC News it has no plans to cut back on its services.

However, the company said it relies on government support to maintain its routes in the Gaspésie region.

"We keep working on our offer locally with the regional authorities to continue to provide passengers with the most efficient and comfortable travel experience possible," it said in a statement.

Martin Girard, a spokesperson for Quebec's Transport Ministry, couldn't confirm how many companies in the province currently receive assistance.

The Couillard Liberals also pledged to provide more support for intercity bus services in a transportation plan announced ahead of the October election.

'Another roadblock' for Indigenous women

Greyhound blamed the cuts in Western Canada on 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 continued increase in car ownership.

Transport Canada said Greyhound Canada operates on a commercial basis with no support from the federal government, and there are no existing federal programs that would subsidize a private intercity bus carrier.

For the moment, Greyhound said it has no plans to make route changes in Quebec.  

"As well, cross-border routes will continue to operate as business as usual," said Wendy Cumming, a spokesperson for the company.

Autobus Maheux services several parts of rural Quebec. (Mélanie Picard/Radio-Canada)

Nakuset, the executive director of the Native Women's Centre of Montreal, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Indigenous women depend on the bus to get to Montreal to use their service.

While Nakuset said there are more options in Quebec, she said Greyhound is crucial to many Indigenous people, particularly in Western Canada.

"This represents another roadblock for us," she said.

With files from Radio-Canada's Piel Côté


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