In the March 12 edition of the Shaunavon Standard under the heading of MLA report, our current sitting member, Mr. Wayne Elhard, who I had a great deal of respect for, I feel has not addressed a very real concern of the residents of his constituency.
I refer to the proposed elimination of our STC bus route. In his remarks in his report, he has made this quote: “Overall spending increases will be less than four per cent, but Saskatchewan people will not see any significant cuts or elimination of important programs and services.”
In other words, does Mr. Elhard consider our STC bus line not an essential service to the residents and merchants of our great Southwest?
I have ridden this bus at times and have seen the amount of freight that has been delivered to the 13 communities involved. Depriving this service to these surrounding towns and villages is another step to the demise of these rural Saskatchewan towns and villages. True, courier service could pick up this freight service, but at what cost and efficiency?
I realize that the passenger ridership will not cover the overhead costs of the operation of this service, but consideration should be given to the importance this bus service has for those that are elderly or suffering from a medical condition and can no longer operate a vehicle due to their condition. These residents are isolated and have no other means to receive medical service due to a lack of doctors in the rural areas. Some also have families in larger centres and this is their only means of transportation.
The Minister Responsible for STC, Mr. Don McMorris, stated that STC’s budget has increased from $1.6 million to $10 million in the past ten years and elimination would result in a $300,000 annual savings, of which about $140,000 would be Eastend to Swift Current and Mossbank route.
I am sure that our increased royalties from our natural resource sector would more than offset this estimate. I also understand that some concerned residents have asked STC to open their books to verify this cost estimate but STC has refused, stating that would be a conflict of interest.
Surely if there are true actual figures, what is the problem for denying this request? I also wonder why STC has asked those who are opposed to the elimination of the three bus routes to address their concerns to the Saskatchewan Traffic Board when it is STC who has applied to the board to eliminate these routes.
I would think the proper procedure would be to make this appeal to the Minister Responsible for STC Mr. Don McMorris. This should be put forward by our current sitting MLAs who are supposed to represent their constituents, namely Mr. Huyghebaert and Mr. Elhard.
Another concern I have is that the elimination of these three routes is just a prelude to more closures in the future, and eventually we will no longer have a valuable reliable means of transportation to serve our rural towns and villages.
The $300,000 saving per year is a very insignificant amount from our provincial treasury, when you consider the negative impact of the elimination of the only valuable inter-city bus service that our rural residents have.
Please take these concerns seriously and do the right thing. Do not eliminate these rural bus routes.
In closing I would ask all those concerned to send letters both to Mr. Don McMorris, Minister Responsible for STC, and also the Highway Traffic Board, 1550 Saskatchewan Drive, Regina, S4P 0E4, by April 17th.