Bus riders gathered with signs and chanted 'shame' outside Crown Investment Minister Joe Hargrave’s office Monday to urge the government to reconsider their decision to shutter the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) by the end of May.
The move announced in the provinces' March budget has garnered some negative attention. When STC closes at the end of the month, more than 200 jobs are said to be cut.
“STC is an essential public service,” JoAnn Jaffe, spokesperson for Save the STC and a frequent rider said. “It acts as rural public transit and knits the province together.”
Jaffe said she has ridden the bus for 25 years and thought the service was critical for those who live in the North.
She also doubts smaller private operators would fill the void after learning the lack of profit to be made. Jaffe also believed the costs to transport freight would increase and be much slower.
"We have all received the same letter back," she said of the similar correspondence between provincial MLAs' offices. “The letters say [they] can no longer afford it because [they] are subsidizing it to an untenable level and they can’t continue with what they are doing."
But Jaffe fired back, saying supporting public services is “part of running a government.”
She was also concerned about those who used STC for health care transport, such as weekly trips into the city for kidney dialysis.
This message was repeated by MaryLou Onyskevitch, who drove in from north of Christopher Lake to protest the cuts.
Onyskevitch said she had two friends who regularly used the bus for appointments at the cancer centre in Saskatoon, and did not know what they were going to do come June 1.
She worried for the numerous Indigenous and Northern people who would be forced to hitch-hike if safe transportation could not be found.
“I am really afraid that we are going to have another highway of tears in Saskatchewan,” she said to applause from the crowd.
Prince Albert Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp also made an appearance at the rally and said she frequently used the bussing service to attend meetings across the province.
She said many municipalities in Saskatchewan “highly subsidize their own public transit" systems and this was something the province just had to accept.
“It allows for economic opportunities for our people and we need that lifeline across the province,” she said.
The councillor also took aim at the governments' move to cut taxes for the wealthy and for corporations, and called on them to do more for the average citizen.
As Hargrave was at work in Regina, he did not address the crowd.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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