Throwback Thursday – Some Random Thoughts on the Last Day (?) of STC #skpoli

Yesterday was the last day of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company which was shuttered as part of the Sask Party’s extreme cuts in their last budget.

Founded in 1946 by Tommy Douglas’ CCF government as a way to connect and serve a widely distributed and (at the time) mostly rural province, STC hit highs for ridership in the 1980’s before entering a slow decline.

At the time of the Sask Party budget, it was widely reported that only 2 of 27 STC routes were profitable (although there is an equally strong argument that profitability should be a secondary consideration for a valuable public service, just as we don’t expect healthcare, education, libraries, highways and other public services to generate profits.)

This quote from the Minister in charge at the launch of STC reinforces that point:

[STC] will provide employment for Saskatchewan citizens and give the province an efficient bus system operated not for financial profit, but for the good of the whole people.

The company grew and expanded over the years to over 400 stops at one point and even into vacation charters (who knew?)

In 1979, STC began offering escorted vacation tours to such places as Disneyland, Vegas, Florida, Texas and the Maritimes. Those are the glory days to which Kinzel often returns when he talks so passionately about STC.

But now, STC is gone – likely more for ideological reasons as any small financial savings to the government (the government subsidized STC at a cost of between $12-18 million per year depending on whose figure you’re using.  But the main point is that it’s around $1-$1.50 per month for every citizen of the province.)  Tellingly, STC was cut completely with no financial analysis or audit of value received being conducted.

To me, this is no different than the ideological cuts to the Film Tax Credit or the more recent cuts to public libraries.

As they did with library cuts, the government is also cherry picking and framing statistics to bolster their argument – often referring to the “per ride” subsidy (which may sound high at $94/rider) but not thinking of how low the shared cost is to provide a valuable public service that helps cancer patients, the elderly, children, students, non-drivers, business people, farmers and many others.

When I broke my leg a few years ago, I’m sure there was a subsidy greater than $94 for the doctor visit, x-rays, and cast I received.  But that’s part of the deal of why we pay taxes for the common good – so every individual will benefit overall and in many ways that they don’t realise or that will save on other higher costs down the road. (Wouldn’t most non-STC users still be happy to know that farmers can get parts in a timely and inexpensive fashion?  Or that cancer patients can easily get to the city for treatment?  Or that University students can get home to visit their parents on occasion?)

Another way the government framed this as a prudent decision was focusing on the dropping ridership and the “per rider” subsidy but often neglecting to mention the freight operations of STC which were actually profitable.

One small piece of good news (and the reason I used a question mark in the title of this post) is that Interim NDP Leader, Trent Wotherspoon, held a press conference at the STC Depot on the bus company’s last day of operations and committed that a future NDP government would restore bus service to the province.

Our family weren’t regular users of STC but we were happy to know it was there when we needed it – mostly to transport us to Weyburn to my wife’s parents when our schedules would otherwise mean taking two vehicles.  Or if I had a work meeting in Saskatoon, STC was often a good option which allowed me to work and read on the bus rather than focusing on the road.  I’ve also used their freight services in both my personal and professional lives.

Here are a few shots I found in my photos of our STC experiences…

Filling out a luggage tag…

Getting ready for a ride on mommy’s lap

STC was modernizing their fleet in many ways and I’m still confused why the government decided to shut it down completely instead of streamlining and improving service.  

(Oh wait, maybe because the Sask Party thinks that shifty party buses that let guests piss on the Legislature are a better option???)

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