Province says support coming to B.C. bus industry
VICTORIA -- Few industries in B.C. have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than the motor coach sector. But on Monday, the provincial government hinted that help may be on the way.
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming told CFAX 1070 that the government was working on some form of relief.
“We’re moving quickly and government is working right now on something that is going to help motor coach companies in our province,” Fleming said.
The news was welcomed by John Wilson, who runs the Wilson’s Group of Companies, including Wilson’s buses.
The company provides the only intercity bus routes connecting remote communities across Vancouver Island, and those routes have been temporarily shut down since December.
Wilson said Monday that his company had set this upcoming Friday as the deadline for a commitment for financial subsidies from the government, or else it would have to consider permanently shutting down routes.
“Fingers crossed this week,” said Wilson. “So that we can save the intercity service here on Vancouver Island, and all communities affected.”
Indigenous communities are amongst the hardest hit by the bus service being down. Losing it permanently would put Indigenous women at risk, says Judith Sayers, President of the Nuu-Chan-nuthatch Tribal Council.
Sayers worries the situation could become similar to the infamous “Highway of Tears” in Northern B.C., where women have gone missing and been murdered.
Sayers characterized Monday’s news as encouraging.
“There’s a lot of stretch of empty road between Tofino and Port Alberni, and (I’m) just really concerned about our women,” said Sayers.
Fleming hasn’t put a timeline on the support, but said it would be as soon as possible, noting the toll travel restrictions are taking on the industry with no immediate end in sight.
“We need a package that’s custom tailored for motor coach carriers,” said Fleming.
The Wilson’s Group is asking for a subsidy in the range of $3 million.
The company says it could have its buses back on the road within 10 days of getting funding, but only if the funding arrives in time to salvage the routes.