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Canada Should Nationalize Greyhound to Protect Our Most Vulnerable | Op-Ed

Greyhound Canada is going out of business. Historically, it has been a fixture of Canadian travel, providing essential low-cost and low-carbon nationwide-travel for hundreds of thousands. Without it, their mobility will be severely compromised. The Canadian Government should step in and nationalize it.

The Big Picture: Nationalizing Greyhound has many benefits: it provides a vital service for low-income and Northern Indigenous communities, it encourages environmentally conscious behaviour, it has precedent in Canada, and holds public approval.

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The History of Greyhound’s Decline

Greyhound Canada, founded in 1929, has serviced over 1,200 different locations across Canada throughout its 90-year history.

  • It provided transportation to and from many of Canada’s remote, rural communities while developing as a key resource for prairie farmers who relied on the company for large package delivery.

Greyhound’s profitability began to take a serious hit in the late 2010s due to declining ridership nationwide which led the company to eliminate numerous routes.

  • In February 2018, Greyhound terminated its remaining British Columbia routes, including Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert and Prince George, as well as to Whitehorse Yukon.
  • On July 9th of the same year, Greyhound announced effective October 31st, it would be cancelling all services west of Sudbury, Ontario.

This was devastating to many Indigenous Canadians in rural British Columbia who were left with few affordable transportation options to and from their towns.

  • Many rightly argued the closure of Greyhound perpetuated and exacerbated the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women due to many now having few options but hitchhiking on the notoriously unsafe British Columbian highways.
  • Activists also feared that without options for travel to hospitals, this would seriously impact public health.
  • Furthermore, there was a significant economic impact on small communities who witnessed a sharp decrease in visitors.

In May of 2020: The company announced it would be temporarily shutting down all its Canadian routes due to a COVID-19 induced 95% drop in ridership. This followed years of service terminations in Western, Central and Northern Canada.

The Case For Nationalization

Nationalization would consist of the Government of Canada purchasing Greyhound’s remaining infrastructure, subsidizing it so that it could continue running, and re-expanding service to communities abandoned by the bus service since 2018.

  • While there would no doubt be a cost, it would be justified for a multitude of reasons including decreasing emissions, empowering low-income communities by giving avenues to travel and our most vulnerable.

Precedent: While the idea might sound revolutionary to some, nationalization is exactly the reason Via Rail exists today. Yet, rail travel is often inaccessible – for financial reasons and otherwise – to marginalized Canadians, and its routes simply do not reach many isolated communities.

  • Via Rail and commercial rail travel in Canada was failing and going bankrupt, just like Greyhound. The Government bought all of its passenger cars and locomotives from CN to start VIA Rail.
  • Vial Rail receives public support to offset the cost of servicing rural communities.
  • There used to be the Saskatchewan Transportation Company – a crown corporation – for 70 years until 2017 Scott Moe began selling public assets. STC serviced 700 communities.

Environmentally speaking, nationalizing Greyhound would fit into the current government’s agenda of reaching net-zero carbon by 2050.

  • The greatest emissions from transportation come from cars and aeroplanes, while taking the bus is more climate conscious.
  • In the future, nationalized buses could become hybrid clean-energy buses.
  • High-speed rail is efficient, but it can be inaccessible and it is important to provide means of transport and mobility for low-income people.

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Low-income Canadians have been disproportionately impacted by the decline of Greyhound, as they cannot always afford other means of transportation.

  • Greyhound riders tend to be lower-income, people of colour.
  • Low-income Canadians have less political clout and influence and therefore are neglected when it comes to affordable public transit outside of cities.
  • Increasing bus routes would greatly increase their mobility and ability to search for work further from their communities.

Public Approval for nationalizing Greyhound is quite pronounced. A 2018 Angus Reid poll found that 6/10 Canadians expressed support for a rural bus service funded by the federal government.

  • This included 57% approval among people who have never ridden Greyhound and over 50% support from members of every political party.

The Bottom Line: Canada is a country with a unique geography, with great distance between many of its communities and essential services, family members and work opportunities.

  • In the absence of Greyhound to fulfill this service, the government has a responsibility to support low-income, rural and Indigenous Canadians by providing safe transit to and from their communities.
  • This can only be done through the setting up of a public commercial bus service, in the same way that creating VIA Rail supported rail travel.
  • The most logical way to do this would be for the government to Nationalize Greyhound.

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