Nova Scotia

Maritime Bus committed to maintaining current schedule even in face of major losses

Owner Mike Cassidy says this year has been 'almost as disastrous as 2020' on account of the pandemic.

The company, which has lost millions in gross revenue, is calling for a regional transportation plan

Mike Cassidy is the owner of Maritime Bus and Coach Atlantic. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The owner of Maritime Bus says he's committed to keeping service at current levels, even in the face of two financially crushing years for his company.

Mike Cassidy, who owns the interprovincial service as well as Coach Atlantic, said 2021 "is almost as disastrous as 2020" on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Those losses have been tremendous," he said in a recent interview.

Cassidy said the company lost $33 million in gross revenue last year and is projecting to lose $25 million in gross revenue for 2021. His workforce has dropped to 175 this year, down from 515 in 2019.

Cruise-related business wiped out

In a normal year, the company does $42 million in total sales, half of which is business related to cruise ships and multi-day tours.

"And that has been, for two years, pretty well non-existent," said Cassidy.

Transport Canada regulations related to the pandemic have meant cruise ships haven't been able to call on the Maritimes, while multi-day bus tours catering to tourists from outside the region only partially resumed this year, said Cassidy.

And while that aspect of his business has all but disappeared, Cassidy has continued to keep the passenger service running, even at reduced capacity and in the face of reduced ridership. At times during the pandemic, the business has been down to operating just three days a week, but is currently back up to six. 

"I feel that I cannot take my foot off the accelerator, I have to keep going," he said. "My attitude is, we have to provide the service. We're a community connector and we're going to get through this COVID-19."

A regional transportation plan

Along with passengers, the service also transports parcels and blood work. Cassidy said he believes the pandemic underscored how essential his service is, and he's hoping it could translate to further support.

Each of the three Maritime provinces provided one-time funding to help the service weather the pandemic in 2020, but Cassidy said there needs to be a broader conversation about passenger service at all government levels.

A briefing note provided for Nova Scotia's public works minister, Kim Masland, said the loss of such a service would mean "all three provinces will lose connectivity to each other and beyond the New Brunswick-Quebec border."

Spokespeople for the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. all say they're part of a federal-provincial-territorial working committee led by Transport Canada that's focusing on the challenges and sustainability of intercity bus service in the country.

Cassidy said he'd like to see a broad conversation about a transportation plan for the region.

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