Gov't ignoring pleas to help fund Yukon bus service, says driver

One year after stepping in to fill the void left by Greyhound leaving Yukon, the manager Watson Lake Shuttle & Freight says the territorial government is ignoring his pleas for funding.

Watson Lake Shuttle & Freight carries passengers and goods between Watson Lake and Whitehorse

Watson Lake Shuttle & Freight uses a 15-passenger bus. Manager and driver Yvon Goupil says it's getting up there in mileage and could need replacing within the next 50,000 kilometres or so. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

One year after stepping in to fill the void left by Greyhound leaving Yukon, the manager of Watson Lake Shuttle & Freight says the territorial government is ignoring his pleas for funding.

Yvon Goupil manages — and drives the bus for — the Liard First Nation-owned shuttle service that makes the five-hour trip between Watson Lake and Whitehorse on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

He says the service is needed — he drives patients travelling to Whitehorse for medical reasons, those visiting family, he brings the newspaper to Watson Lake and he delivers bloodwork on behalf of the hospital. On top of this, he transports food from Whitehorse to Watson Lake's food bank for free. 

"We don't want to get rich off this," said Goupil. "We want to try to offer this to the whole community, which we're doing now, but we want to offer it so it's affordable. At this stage, Watson Lake Shuttle and Freight doesn't have enough business to break down our fare and freight cost."

Goupil says he doesn't get enough ridership to make ends meet at the rates he's charging right now, and ideally he'd like to make the service even more affordable. One day last week, for example, he says he transported only four riders all day.

The rates are $149 one way but Goupil would like to see that number drop to about $100, which he says is closer to what Greyhound used to charge.

'To this day, no answer'

That's why Goupil says he made sure government funding for the service was on the agenda for a recent meeting in Watson Lake, which was attended by territorial ministers.

Nothing was promised at the meeting, so Goupil says he followed up.

"What I did was wrote a letter after the meeting, thanking them for even meeting with us," he said.

"And also asked if there was going to be any movement with Watson Lake Shuttle and Freight. To this day, no answer from that, so it's kind of like, 'Forget it, man.'"

Matthew Cameron, communications adviser for the territorial cabinet office, said the government hasn't received a formal request for funding from Watson Lake Shuttle & Freight.

However, he wrote "We have received correspondence from Mr. Goupil and will be responding shortly." 

Goupil's shuttle is approaching 180,000 kilometres and he says he redirects the company's profit to maintain it. He says it could need to be replaced within 50,000 kilometres or so. 

"I'm just a little worried," he said. "I may be able to keep this going but if something happens, say there's a major hiccup with my shuttle, there's no way I'll be able to pay for that. The shuttle business will just come to a complete halt."

Written by Randi Beers, based on reporting by Kaila Jefferd-Moore


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