“The way we know Greyhound now is not the way we’ll know Greyhound in the future.”
– manitoba government spokesperson
Greyhound buses continued to roll this week as talks continued between the company and the province on ways to keep the carrier operating in Manitoba.
The government is offering an as-yet undisclosed package of route reductions and financial assistance. In return, Greyhound last week dropped its threat to cancel bus service in the province after Nov. 1.
But the province is resigned to seeing fewer routes and less service for Manitoba in the future, a provincial spokesperson said.
“The way we know Greyhound now is not the way we’ll know Greyhound in the future,” said the spokesperson for Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux.
Both sides met October 27 and agreed to continue negotiations. No timeline for an agreement has been set. Greyhound says it will continue operating in the interim.
Greyhound earlier threatened to discontinue bus service in Manitoba October 2. It lifted that deadline and later moved it to November.
Greyhound is demanding financial aid from Ottawa and the provinces to help stem losses on unprofitable routes. The carrier says it loses $15 million a year on passenger service in Canada, including $4 million in Manitoba.
Greyhound says it is looking for financial help from Ottawa and all the provinces. But the carrier is targeting Manitoba because, it says, the province has more unprofitable routes than any other one.
The federal government has said it will not help. But Lemieux said he will continue to press Ottawa on the matter because this is an issue of national importance.
The company admits not running buses in Manitoba would effectively balkanize service throughout Canada. Buses coming from both the East and the West would have to stop at the Manitoba border and not continue on through.
The prospect of losing Greyhound service has alarmed many rural Manitoba residents who depend on the bus to travel to Winnipeg and Brandon for medical appointments and other purposes. Greyhound serves about 150 communities in the province.
The Association of Manitoba Municipalities recently asked the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to ask Ottawa to intervene.
The dispute comes at a time when industry officials claim Canada’s passenger bus system urgently needs overhauling.
Government should deregulate the private-sector bus industry and partially subsidize routes to rural and remote communities, Don Haire, president of Proteus Transportation Inc. and an adviser to the Canadian Bus Association, said in a recently published commentary.
Intercity bus service is federally regulated in Canada but Ottawa delegates regulatory authority to the provinces. The Manitoba regulator is the Motor Transport Board. It licenses Greyhound for routes and fees with the understanding that the carrier use money from profitable routes to offset losses from unprofitable ones. [email protected]