Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia declares transit an essential service during COVID-19 pandemic

The Nova Scotia government has declared municipal transit an essential service under the state of emergency.

Even though people are urged to stay home, officials recognize service needed for workers and others

In this file photo, Cape Breton Transit users are shown boarding a bus. Nova Scotia Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter has declared transit an essential service for the duration of the province's state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The Nova Scotia government has declared municipal transit an essential service under the state of emergency.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said transit is necessary for all.

"For many people, buses are essential, so we've got to be cognizant [that] it's not just about essential service workers, but there are people in our communities that buses are critical for them to function," he said on Thursday.

"Even when we're asking people to stay home, for some families, the only way they can get one person to get groceries or go to the pharmacy store is with the bus.

"It's really important that we preserve our bus system as best and as long as we can, knowing that it's an essential part of functioning in our communities."

Later in the day, Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter issued a directive making municipal transit an essential service for the duration of the state of emergency.

The directive requires municipalities to provide a minimum level of service for workers and for people needing goods and services, but does not define a minimum level.

Details on the minister's directive were not available from the Municipal Affairs Department on Friday.

As of Friday, there are 90 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

Both Halifax Transit and Cape Breton Transit scaled back service this week.

CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke says Cape Breton Transit is already running at a minimum level, but officials can ramp up if needed, especially with grocery retailers looking for more employees. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

In an interview on Friday, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke said he expects the province will eventually help municipalities with all of the costs of dealing with the pandemic, including keeping buses running.

"I don't foresee any difficulty with that and I have nothing to indicate the province will be anything but open to supporting us," he said. "It's their state of emergency. We're following all the protocols necessary."

Clarke said Cape Breton Transit is already running at a minimum level, but officials can ramp up service if needed, especially with grocery retailers looking for more employees.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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