Ontario Ministry of Transportation Assessing Intercommunity Bus Services

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Ontario Northland Transportation and Kasper Transportation were the focus of an announcement last Friday in Thunder Bay
Ontario Northland Transportation

THUNDER BAY – COVID-19 is having a major economic impact on intercity bus transportation across Ontario.

Ontario Northland had announced they would expand to Thunder Bay from White River early in April. That decision has been reversed due to COVID-19.

Ontario Northland Transportation and Kasper Transportation were the focus of an announcement back in December 2017 in Thunder Bay where funds were allocated which have yet to see results in Northwestern Ontario.

Minister Greg Rickford was in Thunder Bay earlier this year to announced ONTC would be connecting to the city.

Kasper Transportation, based in Thunder Bay has announced the company will suspend service on May 2, 2020.

Kasper Wabinski says that the transportation sector has some specific areas that impact bus transportation. Vehicle insurance and leasing costs are set costs that must be met. Enhanced maintenance to ensure buses are safer from COVID-19 for passengers and the impact of lower passenger and freight due to mandated government restrictions have cost the company.

The Ontario Government has been working to assist other industries. So far transportation other than truck drivers has remained outside the support level from Ontario.

Ontario Northland Grant Bailey, Ministers Del Duca, Mauro and Gravelle with Kasper Wabinski
Ontario Northland Grant Bailey, Ministers Del Duca, Mauro and Gravelle with Kasper Wabinski in December 2017.

Christina Saliturom the Senior Manager, Legislative Affairs and Issues Management for the Ministry of Transport says, “We are aware of the challenges Intercommunity Bus Services across Ontario have been facing due to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Saliturom adds that the Ministry of Transportation has been notified that Kasper Transportation plans to discontinue its service as of May 2nd, 2020.

“We are continuing to act based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts to stop the spread of the virus and protect the health and well-being of Ontarians. Ontarians have done an incredible job so far of slowing the spread of COVID-19 by self-isolating and avoiding non-essential travel during the outbreak. These actions have helped in Ontario’s fight against COVID-19 and dramatically reduced the number of cases and deaths in the province,” states Saliturom. “Our government recognizes the unique needs of communities in the North, which is why we are committed to developing a modern, sustainable transportation system in Northern Ontario, as announced in the 2019 Ontario Budget.”

Saliturom concludes saying that “The Ministry of Transportation is working to assess the situation and identify potential transportation options for people in Northwestern Ontario.”

The MTO has not provided a proposed timeline for that assessment at this point.
Federal Health Minister and Thunder Bay Superior North MP Patty Hajdu says, “Understanding the economic challenges facing businesses, the federal government has provided comprehensive support in the form of  the Canada Wage Subsidy, Canada Emergency Business Account and the Business Credit Availability Program.”
“These supports and others are open to the transportation sector,” adds the Minister. “In addition to the current supports being offered, the federal government also provided support to address the discontinuation of Greyhound services through a cost sharing program with the affected provinces”.

Judith Monteith-Farrell MPP (Thunder Bay-Atikokan) has raised serious concerns about the recently announced decision by Kasper Transportation to suspend land-based transportation services in Northern Ontario starting on May 2nd, 2020:

“The intercity bus service is critical for seniors and rural communities in Northern Ontario who depend on it. This decision by Kasper Transportation to suspend the service due to COVID-19 will leave families and businesses without this essential lifeline that connects communities. Many people in Northern Ontario, whether it’s a senior who needs to pick up medications or a freight business that relies on it for shipments, will suffer without this vital transportation service.

“I have immediately written to the Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney to explain the impact this decision will have on Northern Ontario. I am asking the provincial government to urgently step in and ensure this service continues for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and that it will continue to provide this transportation service in the future.”