Saskatoon

Seniors, students speak out on last day for STC

Seniors and students in Saskatchewan are mourning the loss of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.

People not giving up on Saskatchewan bus service, even on its last day in operation

Regina senior Percy Legebokoff says the closing of STC marks the saddest day in Saskatchewan. (CBC News)

Seniors and students in Saskatchewan are mourning the loss of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.

Regina senior Percy Legebokoff came to the STC building in Regina on its last day of operation Wednesday to speak out about the cut.

Theresa DeBoth says STC is supposed to be a service, not a money-maker. (CBC News)

"Today is the most saddest and terrible day in Saskatchewan that I have experienced in my lifetime," he said. "We have always travelled on STC.

"How dare they do this to the people? This is total dictatorship what they're doing."

When asked about Brad Wall, he replied: "Don't even mention that name. That's a dirty name to us seniors. How are we going to travel for medical appointments?"

Theresa DeBoth, a senior from Estevan, took the bus to Regina this week.

In Regina, people at the STC building talked about the loss of the service. 1:01

"I'm sorry to see it go because it was a wonderful service while it was around," she said. "We used it often."

Now, DeBoth said she's unsure how she'll get to medical appointments in the city. Family members may have to take time off work to drive her. 

International student Egor Ufimstiv said he doesn't have his driver's license in Canada and instead took the bus to Regina for an exam.

"The buses are the only thing for me to take between Saskatoon and Regina," he said. "I'm lucky that I could catch it today but if I had to come here later I wouldn't be able to.

"So I'm not happy about it."

From now on, he said he'll probably post on Kijiji to find a ride.

Group determined to save STC

Stop the Cuts, a group fighting to save the STC, called for people to gather at their local station to support the service on its last day.

It is ... for a lot of people, a lifeline.- Peter Garden, Stop the Cuts

Group spokesperson Peter Garden issued the call to action on CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, as one last push to save the Crown bus service, the latest victim of the Saskatchewan government's austerity budget.

Peter Garden, a member of Stop the Cuts, is asking everyone to speak up and ask the government to save STC. (David Shield/CBC)

Garden believes more could have been done to trim costs at STC and make it more palatable to government number crunchers. At the same time, he argued that STC should be viewed more as a service where money isn't the only consideration.

"It is … for a lot of people, their lifeline. It's their way of connecting to their families."

This was echoed by bus user deBoth, who questioned the government's reasoning for cutting the bus line.

"It wasn't made to make money. It was made for service to the people in the province."

Garden said many of those people are among the province's most vulnerable citizens. Without STC, he said they'll either have to forego travel or take risks by hitchhiking through rural Saskatchewan.

"There is a group of folks in B.C. who have been advocating along the 'highway of tears' for a number of years for a bus service because women have been disappearing along that route."

NDP, bus users make final appeal to government

NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon made an appeal to Premier Brad Wall to put the matter to a vote. 

"We're calling on him, of course, to have at least the guts and the decency to go to Saskatchewan people for a vote on this matter," Wotherspoon said outside the STC bus depot in Regina on Wednesday. 

Wall has previously acknowledged that the decision to reduce spending and end the bus service was "very difficult."

On the last day of spring sitting of the legislature, the premier said the government reversed its library cuts but has no immediate plans for any further changes to its budget.

Even as STC buses make their last trip, ready to go up for sale as the company is liquidated, Garden said he's not ready to accept defeat.

"I think that if we see an outpouring of public support for the STC that they may be forced to take a second look at this."

'Tough day for everybody'

Joe Hargave, the minister responsible for Crown corporations, called Wednesday a "tough day for everybody," but defended the government's decision to shutter the STC by highlighting the cost of operating the service. 

The government says cutting the STC and its 224 jobs will save $85 million over the next five years.

Joe Hargrave says subsidies to the STC are unsustainable. (CBC)

"We have essential services [which] are health care, social services and education," Hargrave said Wednesday.

"Those are the core priorities of the government and we think the $85 to $100 million this could cost over the next five years would be better spent in healthcare, education and social services."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning

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