N.B. political panellists call on province to support Maritime Bus
Earlier this month, bus company announced cuts to several routes
Green Party Leader David Coon says potential cuts to Maritime Bus lines are an immediate concern for northern and rural New Brunswickers that the province needs to address now.
Earlier this month, the interprovincial bus service announced it was cutting several routes, including the Edmundston-Fredericton and Campbellton-Moncton routes.
The company said it was making the cuts because of increased operating costs and low ridership due to the pandemic.
"That is an essential service that people need to use to get to medical services for anyone who can't drive or can't afford to drive," said Coon in this week's political panel.
"Without it, they're trapped. You can't get there from here if there isn't a bus."
On Tuesday, 21 Maritime senators sent a letter urging the federal government to provide federal assistance to the service.
Maritime Bus will continue the routes until the end of the month to give municipalities a chance to figure out a way to help fund the service.
New Brunswick's Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder didn't explicitly say money was coming, suggesting the province will have to explore the issue more carefully.
"I think one of our mistakes historically is that we've all worked from solutions rather than problems and opportunities," said Holder.
"I think we have to identify what the challenges are and I think then from there we have to figure out what the solutions are."
Coon agrees that a rethink of transportation in the province is needed, but said the planned cuts must be addressed now.
Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson said the province has made it difficult for businesses to receive help.
"P.E.I., Nova Scotia has authorized help, New Brunswick is the only province out of the three that doesn't want to provide the help," said Melanson.
"Now, we are hearing for Maritime Bus that maybe help is coming, but the provincial government is putting conditions… the conditions that's being put in place by the premier, by this government to access any potential help is so complicated and difficult to access that businesses are just saying it's not worth it to go and try to apply for this help."
Holder said a short-term solution can't come at the expense of a long-tem plan.
"I agree something needs to be done in the short term, but that short term solution and that short term conversation just can't be in a vacuum without thinking about where we go moving forward," said Holder.
"The fact of the matter is, in March, the government through, I believe it was the Regional Development Corporation, invested $160,000 in this to keep Maritime Bus moving along throughout this COVID situation. So I don't think that it's fair to say that the government has not responded to the situation in the short term."
Coon said inter-city bus service needs to be viewed like a ferry service.
"We don't say to people, 'we can't run ferries because they can't pay for themselves, so you're going to have to get your own boats,'" said Coon.
"But we do take the view that we'll provide the roads but you have to get your own cars to travel on them. And if you can't afford a car, or don't have the ability to drive a car, you're out of luck."
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