While residents in northern Saskatchewan no longer see a transportation subsidy, employees at various large corporations working at the Global Transportation Hub in Regina do.

According to the Global Transportation Hub Annual Report 2017-18 the GTH budgeted $244,000 for transportation, but only received $130,000 back, an approximate $114,000 subsidy.

Bryan Richards President and CEO of the GTH stated in during testimony in the Economy Committee last week. “The transit system was set up in the long term to be full cost recovery as the property is built out, so at this point in time equitably charging our clients for their usage. And we are subsidizing as the property is not completely filled out, as you had pointed out.” He admitted that the taxpayer is on the hook.

Major corporations like Loblaws and Emterra operate in the GTH.

Attorney General Don Morgan attempted to justify the subsidy saying it was intended to maintain jobs. “The current users of the property are labour intensive. They’re indicating they’re bringing more workers there. The expectation I think was reasonable on their part, when they came in, that public transit would be available, and as more of them come, there’s greater opportunities for cost recovery. But at the present time, maintaining those jobs, those individuals there, its good value when you realize the amount of money we recover from those individuals in property tax. And I would not want to put any of those positions in jeopardy, or somebody thinking that they’re not going to be able to get to work.”

“The GTH coordinates a number of services for its clients, including fire services, enforcement, road maintenance and a shuttle service. Currently, the GTH pays about $7 per ride. We will be reviewing this bus shuttle service to determine whether it can continue without the minimal subsidy provided by government. The GTH has had meetings with Loblaw and Emterra – the two tenants whose employees regularly use the bus service – to explore more efficient ways to run the transit program. They understand the need to phase out the subsidy and move towards a full cost-recovery model,” Morgan stated.

The government says the STC per passenger subsidy forecasted for 2017-18 was $94 per STC passenger.

The Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) was recently sold off, after the government would not continue to subsidize it. The government estimated that it would cost taxpayers $85 million over five years to continue operation. Yet with low ridership, the government said it was no longer feasible.

Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette says it appears the government is picking winners and loser in who gets a transportation subsidy. “The government of the day picking winners and losers and unfortunately we have some of the most vulnerable people in northern Saskatchewan. Once you share this with the public, and the taxpayers that pay the bills, they may have some serious questions about this,” Vermette said.

Vermette suggests finding an alternate taxpayer funded transportation system for the north, which serves the needs and is cost effective.

(The view from inside one of STC’s last trips. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.)