While the government decided it wouldn’t subsidize the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, it has been providing a subsidy for the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) bus shuttle.
The government is reviewing the transit service and meeting with GTH employers to determine if it can run without the subsidy.
The GTH, which is a government entity, has been helping pay for the transit service since 2014, when First Canada won a five-year contract which will expire in May 2019.
In an emailed response, the GTH stated a lack of transit was previously a significant employment barrier for clients like Loblaws since the City of Regina doesn’t offer bus service to the area.
In an annual report, the GTH said it entered the contract that is paid on a per usage basis.
Last fiscal year the GTH paid First Bus $222,478 but received a $107,275 reimbursement from Loblaws and $20,000 from Emterra.
The GTH’s portion of the bill was 35 per cent of the cost — which worked out to $77,867.
The remaining $17, 335 was split between the GTH and Loblaws and Emterra using a shared cost model. The GTH makes a contribution based on the amount of unused land and the rest is paid for by the GTH clients with each pay based on their percentage of total people working at the GTH.
The GTH currently pays about $7 per ride.
In a recent newsletter, Loblaws said it has over 700 people on their Regina payroll.
In a written statement, Don Morgan, minister responsible for the GTH, said the government is reviewing the bus shuttle service to determine if it can continue without the minimal subsidy from the government.
Morgan said the GTH has met with Emterra and Loblaws to explore more efficient ways to run the transit program.
NDP questions ‘unfair’ subsidy
Saskatchewan’s Opposition NDP is questioning why the province ever started subsidizing a bus service for employees of private companies at the GTH.
Cathy Sproule, Opposition critic for the GTH, described the subsidy as completely unfair, saying it benefits Loblaws — one of the wealthiest companies in Canada.
“We have people in Saskatchewan that can’t get to their medical appointments from rural areas because the government decided not to subsidize STC,” Sproule said in an interview with 980 CJME Tuesday.
Sproule pointed out Loblaws originally paid for its own transit service for employees as recently as 2013 and asks why the government stepped in to fund part of the cost in 2014.
The GTH maintains the need for funding will decrease as more companies move in, but the NDP said that is problematic because the provincial entity can’t seem to find any new clients interested in buying land out there.
Sproule said Minister Morgan appears to be scrambling, because by funding even 35 per cent of the transit service, it still looks bad publicly to fund one of the wealthiest companies in Canada to help get workers to the job site.
“It’s incredibly unfair to the taxpayer and then where’s the fairness to other companies who pay for their own workers to get to the site and they arrange for transit for them,” Sproule commented.
She added it seems strange for the Sask Party government to be spending taxpayer money to essentially prop up the free market.