WINNIPEG — Greyhound has backed off its threat to pull its buses out of Manitoba, thanks to a promise of government subsidies.
The company issued a statement Wednesday saying it is working on a deal with the provincial NDP government that will allow bus service to carry on.
“Officials will continue to meet and expect to secure the precise details of an agreement in the near future,” Greyhound said in a written statement Wednesday. “Both the government and the company agree that some combination of direct investment and reduction of service will be required.”
Greyhound had threatened to stop service across Manitoba as of next week, and had stopped selling tickets for service beyond Nov. 1, saying it was losing money because of reduced ridership. The company has also planned to stop service in northern Ontario by next month, and is reviewing its operations in the other western provinces and territories.
The possibility of leaving rural residents without transit was too much for the Manitoba government.
“It’s a necessity and an important mode of transportation for many northerners and rural Manitobans, including people using our health care service,” Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux said Wednesday.
“We haven’t nailed down a specific figure (for subsidies) because we have to continue those conversations with Greyhound going forward. They’re coming forward with more information for us.”
The government subsidy will be less than the $4 million a year that Greyhound has said it is losing in Manitoba, Lemieux said. That means some routes may be served less frequently and others might be closed altogether, he said.
Both Greyhound and Lemieux are hoping the federal government will put up money as well, but federal Transport Minister John Baird dismissed the idea last month and accused Greyhound of trying to “bully” the provinces.
Greyhound, the only transit option in many remote areas, has said it is being hurt by rural depopulation and a faltering economy. It has been seeking subsidies as well as a loosening of federal regulations that require it to operate money-losing routes.
Other provinces do not appear to be as eager as Manitoba to prop up the bus company. Federal and provincial transportation ministers set up a working group earlier this month to look at the issue. Following the meeting, Lemieux said some of his counterparts “felt very strongly” that bus service should not be subsidized.