As of May 13, 2021 Greyhound will no longer run in Canada. The company’s decision to take a final exit from our highways highlights the need for a national public transit system. A publicly-owned and properly funded system is necessary to ensure Canadians in every province and territory can exercise their right to freedom of movement, as recognized in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In most of Canada, rural and remote areas are underserved, with intermittent, expensive and sometimes unsafe transportation options; in many cases no public transportation is available. A safe, reliable, accessible, affordable and climate-friendly national public transportation system can be designed to serve both rural and remote communities and larger centers. Such a system would provide greater autonomy, dignity and freedom to people including vulnerable women, youth, elderly, people with disabilities and health conditions and people living in poverty whose safety may depend on reliable transportation. Moreover, Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report calls for “safe and affordable transit and transportation services… sufficient and readily available. [Section 4.8]”
We urge provincial, federal, municipal and Indigenous governments to work together to build a transportation system that serves all of our communities. We can build upon experience with successful current and former public regional transit systems such as the Saskatchewan Transportation Company and GO Transit, and potentially integrate it with public passenger railway services such as VIA Rail and Northland Railway.
We caution against piecemeal efforts that would allocate profitable routes between major centres to private operators and leave smaller centers dependent on precarious private services that must cut corners to stay in business or rely on subsidies that belt-tightening governments could easily cut. National public transit must be understood as public utility — essential infrastructure that creates societal value as a whole system.
Once pandemic restrictions end, Canadians will be eager to travel across the country to visit family and friends, explore new places and make moves for work, education and new beginnings. As climate change costs rise and with greater awareness of climate justice, people increasingly seek alternatives to air travel. In February 2021 the federal government announced it will invest $14.9 billion for public transit projects over the next eight years: to create jobs, protect the environment, promote health and provide needed service to rural, remote and Indigenous communities. Public transit should not stop at the city limits. Now is the perfect time to create a national publicly-owned transit system that provides safe, reliable transportation for all Canadians.
For more information
Bess Legault, NFU Women’s President
Al Birchard, NFU Board member
Rébeka Frazer-Chiasson, NFU New Brunswick