P.E.I.'s accessible transit service faces big shortfall

Pat and the Elephant, P.E.I.’s accessible transit service, delivered some bad news at its annual general meeting Monday night.

Pat and the Elephant out $70K in 2019-20

Pat and the Elephant has been operating for 45 years. (Laura Meader/CBC )

Pat and the Elephant, P.E.I.'s accessible transit service, delivered some bad news at its annual general meeting Monday night.

The service, which has been operating since 1975, missed its budget target by $70,000 for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which ended March 31.

That included only two weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. In April and May, ridership was down about 80 per cent.

"When the nursing homes closed, and the churches closed, and the restaurants closed, that takes care of a lot of both business and social travelling for people, so it's been down," said manager Halbert Pratt.

Pat and the Elephant has laid off 15 part-time drivers, leaving just the four full-time staff.

But that has led to issues during busy times — some customers have had to wait up to an hour for a pickup.

Pat and the Elephant has struck a committee to look at how to get the budget balanced again.

Funding could be coming

Questions about the future of Pat and the Elephant were brought up in the P.E.I. Legislature Tuesday.

Green MLA Hannah Bell said she was aware of an application by the organization submitted to the government asking for "a substantive increase to its operational funds in January of this year."

"It was very clear about the anticipated shortfall for their operating budget even before COVID happened," she said and asked Minister for Social Development and Housing Ernie Hudson if his department had reviewed that application.

Hudson said his department will be meeting with the organization next week.

"With regard to operational funding and the potential increased for funding, I would just ask the honourable member to stay tuned. The budget will be coming down shortly," Hudson said.

The minister added that last year, Pat and the Elephant was given more than $155,000 to help with operational costs and a grant to help purchase a new van.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning and Nicole Williams


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