Northern communities continue to reel over the loss of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC).
That was one of the main messages heard at the New North mayor and council gathering in Prince Albert this week. The conference, which was held at the Travelodge Hotel, provides northern community leaders a chance to ask questions to a variety of presenters including ministers and government representatives.
Bruce Fidler, the chair of New North, said many communities are concerned around the cuts announced in the provincial budget including eliminating STC, which he described as an essential services for the North.
“STC being shut down was a tremendous hit to us,” he said. “In the North, it is extremely valuable for our people to get out for a number of issues. A lot of it is medical appointments but also social issues, schooling, recreational activities.”
Not everyone in the north has access to a vehicle, which is why STC played such an important role, he said.
One of the main reasons for cutting the provincially-backed busing service was the routes weren’t being utilized as much and weren’t bringing in a profit. Fidler said sometimes services need to be provided even if it costs taxpayers money.
“Sometimes you just have to suck that up,” he said. “I’m sorry but you have to take into account many people it affects. Sometimes you do take a loss but the benefit for many people is many times worth it.”
Bobby Woods, the mayor of Buffalo Narrows, agreed.
He said it was roughly five years ago when STC started a bus service in the northwest, which was very welcomed. Generally, if someone doesn’t have a vehicle the only other way to travel is by hitchhiking or carpooling, he said.
STC wasn’t just being used to transport people. Woods said the community also used the service to transport water samples and as a cheaper way to bring in parcels.
“It’s going to be missed but gosh, I wish the government would give us some other options before they just bail out on something,” he said. “It provided a decent service for our northern community.”
Woods said there’s no way Buffalo Narrows could afford to bring in its own public transit as the community is barely surviving as is. He explained the cuts in the provincial budget cost Buffalo Narrows $63,000, a significant amount for the small community.
Woods wasn’t impressed by the lack of cabinet ministers at the convention. He added many in the North feel felt out.
“Sometimes I feel we’re not important enough for ministers to come out and say ‘hi, how are you doing? what are the issues? how can we help you and how can you help yourself more so than anything else’,” he said. “To me I think it is disrespectful. I think they need to take us more into consideration.”
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