Greyhound Canada threatens to axe routes in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario

Greyhound Canada, long the mass transit lifeline for rural areas, says it's going to shut down routes beginning with Manitoba and parts of Ontario if it doesn't get a regulatory break.

Greyhound Canada, long the mass transit lifeline for rural areas, says it's going to shut down routes beginning with Manitoba and parts of Ontario if it doesn't get a regulatory break.

But federal and provincial leaders say the international bus company with the running dog logo is bluffing and bullying to get more money and, in the case of Ottawa, is barking up the wrong tree.

Stu Kendrick, senior vice-president of Greyhound Canada, said the bus line won't stop service in Manitoba for 30 days in order to honour tickets already sold.

It plans to shut down operations in northwestern Ontario by Dec. 2 and re-examine routes in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

"We have repeatedly asked the federal and provincial governments to change the existing legislative and regulatory regimes that govern inter-city bus operations," Kendrick said in a news release Thursday.

"Our financial situation is dire and we are no longer in a position to absorb losses that are almost solely attributable to government policies."

Current regulatory rules are forcing Greyhound to run trips to unprofitable sites in small-town Canada, which can no longer be supported by money-making routes, bus parcel operations and other money sources, said Kendrick.

He said the bus line will work with federal and provincial authorities in the next few weeks to keep some routes going, but added the status quo won't stand.

"Despite numerous attempts over the years to adjust this business model in order to gain a profitable footing, Greyhound Canada has now run out of options."

Responsibility for inter-city bus transportation is shared between the federal and provincial governments. Ottawa has overall authority but delegates regulatory power to the provinces.

Federal Transport Minister John Baird dismissed the closure notice.

"Greyhound is a Texas-based multinational. Their actions are heavy-handed and clearly an attempt to bully the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario," said Baird in an interview.

"They're seeking tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers money as a subsidy. That's why they're targeting Manitoba and Ontario."

Baird said Greyhound needs to deal with the provinces.

"The (federal) government has been out of this for 50 years, and we've certainly got our hands full with aviation and with Via (Rail)."

In Ontario, former provincial NDP Leader Howard Hampton, who still represents the riding of Kenora-Rainy River, pointed out that Greyhound is crying poor in Manitoba even though it just built a new terminal at the Winnipeg airport.

The threat, he said, is a ploy.

"I have no doubt that they're probably losing money in some places, but this is more than anything else a bargaining tactic."

Given Manitoba's NDP leadership race to replace outgoing Premier Gary Doer, Hampton said he expects to see some sort of proposal for a not-for-profit bus line to ensure smaller communities have service.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty should consider doing the same, he added.

"The McGuinty government has been missing in action over the last three years as Greyhound has cut service after service in northwestern Ontario. They've done nothing."

Lots of communities west of Sault Ste. Marie have no train or plane service, he said.

At the new station in Winnipeg, passengers reacted with surprise and dismay at the news that Manitoba is first on the list to lose bus service.

Several passengers said they rely on Greyhound every few weeks to travel from outlying towns into the city.

"It's the cheapest option a lot of the time," said Sam Nabi, a 19-year-old university student. "I'm familiar with this system now that I've been using it for a while. It's usually my go-to option,"

Nabi is from Whitby, Ont., and was making his way back home on the bus after spending the summer in Alberta.

"I am very surprised. I thought it was always there. There are signs in some of the terminals saying, 'Greyhound here for 75 years' and I don't know what other options there would be."

Governments at all levels should do whatever they can to stop the bus line from pulling out, he said.

"It should be a priority. If the federal government needs to take ownership of Greyhound to keep it alive, then I think that's totally appropriate."

Barry Rempel, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Airports Authority, told a Winnipeg radio station that Greyhound has promised that parcel service will continue through the new terminal at the airport.

He said he expects something can be worked out on the passenger side as well.

"I really believe that there is a solution. I do know that many, many people are working in the background to try and come to a quick resolution on this.""

Greyhound, founded in 1914 in the United States, is the largest provider of inter-city bus transportation in Canada, serving 700 communities with 1,000 daily departures.

It also operates in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

 
 
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