NDP rolls up to Prince Albert in STC Bus to promote promise to revive service

Ryan Meili held a press conference outside of Saskatchewan Party candidate Joe Hargrave’s campaign office Tuesday to present the NDP’s plan to rebuild provincial bus service

(Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald) Prince Albert NDP candidate Troy Parenteau speaks Tuesday as (left to right) local resident Louis Fauchoux, Mahli Brindamour, her husband NDP leader Ryan Meili and local NDP candidate Nicole Rancourt look on. Meili arrived to the press conference, held across the street from the campaign office of Saskatchewan Party candidate Joe Hargrave, inside of the former STC bus.

NDP leader Ryan Meili rolled up to Prince Albert in an old STC bus Tuesday to make a point about the Saskatchewan Party and advocate for his party’s plans to bring back the service.

Meili, accompanied by local NDP candidates Troy Parenteau (Prince albert Carlton) and Nicole Rancourt (Prince Albert Northcote), parked the bus in front of Sask. Party MLA and former STC Minister Joe Hargrave’s office and held a press conference across the street.

“Joe Hargrave was the minister who sold off STC and had families of this community left behind,” Parenteau said. “There is no greater symbol of the way Joe Hargrave and Scott Moe are letting families of Prince Albert down.”

Parenteau, who is up against Hargrave in this year’s provincial election, pointed out that the city’s former bus depot – now home to Propaganda and TJ’s Pizza – is in his riding.

STC was the victim of budget cuts in 2017, as the province faced a deficit of more than $600 million.

At the time, the province said the service would require a subsidy of more than $85 million, and that only two of 27 routes were profitable.

According to figures released by the provincial government, STC ridership decreased from 800,000 annually in the early 1980s to less than 201,000 in 2015

Since then, the NDP has maintained that the loss of STC leaves more communities and more vulnerable people stranded.

When STC was shuttered and its assets sold off, Hargrave was the minister in charge. 

Meili said Tuesday that closing and selling STC was a broken promise.

“In 2016, they told people STC was safe. Only a year later, it was gone,” he said.

“They turned their back on the people of Prince Albert and northern Saskatchewan and left people everywhere in this province with no provincial transportation.”

Meili said his party, if elected, would bring back STC so remote communities and the north would have access to the transport they need.

The NDP’s STC, Meili said, would look different to serve different needs of riders and shippers today. Once elected, he said, his party would immediately start work consulting with communities to learn what the new STC would look like.

In the party’s costed platform, it estimates the new-look STC would cost $10 million to operate, starting in 2021-22 and increase by increments of $200,000 each year.

 One person appreciative of the NDP approach is Louis Fauchoux, who spoke at Meili’s press conference Tuesday. Fauchoux said he and his wife relied on STC when it operated.

“STC was an essential service to me and my wife. We used to use it to visit my daughter in Lloydminster and travel to Regina, Saskatoon or La Ronge,” he said.

 “It’s been gone. I feel like we’ve been cut off. My wife and I worry about how we’ll get to medical appointments out of town. My wife has had cancer once, it may come back. Where do we go? How do we go? Todays’ announcement comes as welcome news. Thank you for bringing up this important issue.”

 Meili said bringing back STC is just part of his party’s plan to help seniors.

He said the pandemic has also shown the challenges in long-term care. He said an NDP government would create “the best home care in Canada so seniors are able to stay in their own homes and age with dignity independently as long as possible.”

He also committed to ensuring long-term care remains affordable and properly staff.

The NDP’s costed platform includes $50 million in 2021-22 for home care and $100 million to end long-term and acute care staffing shortages. His party would also establish a seniors’ advocate office at an estimated cost of $1 million in 2021-22.