It’s just after 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, and although the sun is still shining, the mood around the Prince Albert STC terminal is a somber one.
Only moments earlier the last bus out of Prince Albert rumbled through an open gate and departed down 15th Street West towards Hudson Bay.
More than a dozen STC supporters are still lingering around the parking lot, having just come from inside the terminal.
A loud horn blast as the last bus drove by for the last time is one of the few good memories they’ll take home.
“These cuts just hit the most marginalized (and) the poor,” says one supporter, Prince Albert resident Virginia Kutzan. “They’re senseless cuts.”
Since announcing the cuts during the delivery of their provincial budget in March, the Saskatchewan Party has maintained that the STC is an unaffordable service.
According to the government, funding the STC for the next five years would require a subsidy of more than $85 million. The government also maintained that only two of the service’s 27 routes were profitable.
That made the STC an expendable service, as Finance Minister Ken Doherty tried to trim the province’s deficit. Even with the cuts, the Saskatchewan government will still see a projected shortfall of $696 million.
However, STC supporters like Kutzan say the government doesn’t realize just how many problems they’re causing for vulnerable residents, particularly in the north.
“Just how sad it is to end this era of public transportation of service for our people here in Saskatchewan,” she says when asked what was going through her head as the last bus rolled by. “Especially up north, to say nothing about the patients who have to undergo chemotherapy and who rely on the bus (and) the seniors who rely on the bus.”
There are a few tears as supporters start to drift away. In a few hours, the only thing left will be an empty building, with a closure notice taped on the inside windows.
Members of the media were prevented from entering the terminal to speak with passengers before boarding on Wednesday night. The three security guards present said they had not been told why media were not allowed inside, only that the order came down “from Saskatoon.”