Greyhound Canada’s senior executive says he’s disturbed that Ottawa has branded the company as a black-hatted shakedown artist over plans to pull service due to heavy losses.
“It’s a little disappointing with respect to being categorized as bullying, heavy-handed and (engaged) in a shakedown,” Stuart Kendrick, senior vice-president of Greyhound Canada said in an interview Friday.
“It was disappointing because we met with the federal government (and) Minister (John) Baird several months ago. We were quite up front and open about our situation, about the regulatory structure — that it’s broken and needs to be fixed. And we had some short-term solutions.”
On Thursday, Greyhound Canada announced regulatory rules mandating it to run unprofitable routes to smaller centres can no longer be sustained from profits off its major routes and parcel delivery service.
The company said it needs at least $15 million from the federal government immediately to shore up losses on the money-losing routes.
It also wants to meet with provincial and federal leaders to revisit the regulatory rules that are causing the red ink.
Otherwise, the company says it will shut down in Manitoba in 29 days, cease operations in northwestern Ontario by Dec. 2, and review whether it will continue operating in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
In interviews Thursday, Baird labelled Greyhound’s actions “heavy-handed and clearly an attempt to bully the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario.” He said Ottawa has its hands full with too many other transportation issues to delve into Greyhound’s regulatory concerns.
But Kendrick said that’s not good enough. He noted that only Ottawa has the authority to harmonize regulations across provincial boundaries, so the federal minister shouldn’t just stand on the sidelines.
“We don’t want to exit rural Canada,” he said. “We’ve got 80-plus years of service in the business, but it’s broken. Rather than exit it, we did go to the government to say: ’If you want rural Canadian bus service, you’re going to need to assist.”’
“So far, we haven’t got the reaction and response. Therefore as a company it becomes a business decision.”
Local politicians said Friday if Greyhound makes good on its closures, it would be a critical blow to rural communities and to businesses that rely on its parcel shipments.
“I’d like to see a solution,” said Ken Brennan, mayor of Portage la Prairie, Man.
“As far as the people I’m responsible to, those people are compromised. This is not their fault. They need this as a service and if there’s a public subsidy that has to be made, that should be considered.”
Brennan said even if there’s a compromise, it may not come in time to help Manitoba. “This isn’t something that’s going to be solved in 30 days, that’s my concern.”