Greyhound's bus service could stop running in Manitoba in a month -- disrupting and inconveniencing thousands of passengers -- if the company doesn't get a quick $15-million subsidy from the federal government.
The company said yesterday it needs the money soon to help cover losses it's suffering due to government regulations that force it to run buses to small, remote communities with too few passengers to make the routes viable.
"If we cannot find a solution as of Oct. 2, we will cease operations in Manitoba," said Karen Gordon, a Toronto-based spokeswoman for Greyhound Canada.
The possible shutdown -- coming weeks after Greyhound's Winnipeg operation moved into a $7-million depot and cargo facility constructed at Richardson International Airport -- is angering passengers, particularly those who use the service often.
"I depend on the bus line," Marie Newfield, a 73-year-old rural Manitoba resident, said at the depot. "It doesn't make any sense to me -- they build this place and then close it down? That's stupid."
Alvin Cameron said it's the wrong province to target.
'Right next to us'
"We're right in the middle of North America -- that's wrong," Cameron said while standing at the depot. "Saskatchewan is right next to us, and they're not saying anything about Saskatchewan."
Greyhound also plans to shut down operations in northwestern Ontario by Dec. 2 while re-examining routes for possible service reductions in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories if it can't get regulatory breaks from Ottawa and/or provincial governments. "We're taking a look at a number of provinces," Gordon said. "We're reviewing those operations."
The company -- Canada's largest provider of inter-city bus transportation, serving 700 communities with 1,000 daily departures -- said it's continuing to serve Manitoba for at least a month to honour tickets already sold.
Greyhound is asking Ottawa -- which has authority over inter-city bus transportation -- for the immediate subsidy, despite a longtime move by the feds to hand the regulatory power to the provinces.
"We're asking the government to cover our losses so that we can break even while we find a solution," Gordon said, adding the feds should "play a leadership role" in the dispute.
"We're asking for $15 million, which is half the cost of running the non-profitable routes and will cover about 12 months."
Federal Transport Minister John Baird dismissed the closure notice as an "attempt to bully" Manitoba and Ontario, and said Greyhound should deal directly with provinces.
"They're seeking tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money as a subsidy," Baird said. "That's why they're targeting Manitoba and Ontario."