“…we simply wait, keeping our equipment idle and jobs incomplete”
I work at an environmental company halfway between Saskatoon and Regina. As you can imagine, being in a small town, every time we need a specific part (bearing/bolt/hydraulic hose or even printer paper or ink) not carried by our local farm supply, we need to run into the city for it. If we order parts or supplies from the city businesses, I have to pick it up on Monday mornings during our scheduled parts run. So many times, I hear “we’re sold out right now” (or “the delivery truck didn’t arrive yet”) but “we can have one here for you tomorrow morning” which is a real frustration because Tuesday morning means we’re waiting a full WEEK, or making a 3-4 hour round trip to the city and back, costing paid employee hours and fuel. The alternative is we simply wait, keeping our equipment idle and jobs incomplete. It’s inconvenient both ways.
Before the STC shut down we could ask most businesses to “send it on the bus” and it would arrive by 9:30 the next morning, generally for about $20, and we’d pick it up at the local gas station. This was an efficient, convenient way to get parts from out of town. We realize that there are some courier services, but the amount of co-ordination and cost is more. (Who is coming into town? When? What’s the cost? Are they cleared to pick up parcels on our behalf? Who signs for it? What if it doesn’t show up? Why aren’t they answering the phone right now?) To busy small businesses with limited, overworked staff, this is a real headache.
Not only that, travel is impacted in all small towns. Many seniors or people without a vehicle or licence are basically marooned in their communities. My mother in law complained to me last week that her sister never visits from Nipawin anymore, because she can’t get to Saskatoon or back. (If there is an alternative she’s not aware of it.) They’re both in their late 70s and neither drives anymore. This is creating isolation and a breakdown of emotional and psychological connection, which in turn has shows to lead to increased heath issues, particularly with lonely seniors. Imagine being separated from your family for months on end because there is no way of getting to them. Even third-world countries had public transportation to help people move about and connect.
For us in middle age, even going to the airport from a small town is an issue. You are now forced to park your car for $100/week if you go away, as opposed to taking the bus to the city. Or you need to depend on someone driving and dropping your off, again a minimum four- hour chunk our of anyone’s day, plus fuel. Each way. It’s the same if you need to travel for work or a family event and you simply don’t have a second family vehicle or a licence.
I know there are dozens of other examples where it is even more imperative that people have the ability to get out of town without resorting to dangerous practices like hitchhiking. The plight of abused women and children who wish to escape hostile home lives or communities comes to mind. What do they do if they cannot leave to save their lives? Who is responsible if they are forced to stay put? Or engage in equally risky behaviour to get out? It would be a no-win situation for them.
In a nutshell, the STC didn’t make money, understood. But some things are services that don’t need to turn a cash profit. Like roads, libraries and helplines, they simply add to the quality of life for people in our communities. This is particularly important in a huge, rural space like Saskatchewan where distances are great and isolation is all too easy. To remove transportation from that equation is like taking away clean drinking water. It would be unthinkable in most of the western world to be told you can no longer move from one community to another without owning and maintaining a private vehicle. Just saying it out load sounds ridiculous, like some fictional upper-class society rule that keeps the disadvantaged and elderly in place.
I hope this statement helps with your challenge to prove that public transportation in a large and spread out province like Saskatchewan is not a luxury, but a lifeline.
Submitted by Michele Kiss on June 13, 2018