Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard has asked the territorial government to look into whether assistance can be offered to a “national icon” to get it to return to the NWT.
That national icon is Greyhound passenger bus service.
In October 2011, the company stopped carrying passengers from the south to Hay River, although it continues to offer parcel service.
Hay River and the South Slave have suffered difficulties without the passenger service, Bouchard said in the legislative assembly on Feb. 13, noting it was used by people with low incomes and also helped the tourism sector.
“There’s a national pass system out there where tourists travelling into the country or around the country can buy a pass that will get them anywhere in Canada, except the Northwest Territories,” he said.
The MLA added the service was used by businesses to transport employees in and out of the territories.
Bouchard asked Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister David Ramsay if the department has looked at re-establishing the 54-seat bus service in the North. The buses ran six times per week.
“It was unfortunate that Greyhound made the corporate decision to not include the Northwest Territories in its routes in 2011,” Ramsay said. “They have done likewise across this country with taking away a number of rural routes into other northern areas of other provinces.”
Some provinces have offered subsidies, the minister noted. “I know in Manitoba they’ve provided a $3.9-million subsidy to Greyhound to operate rural routes in Manitoba.”
Ramsay said the department hasn’t explored the idea of a subsidy to Greyhound.
“I would say that there’s a business opportunity here for somebody in the South Slave to pick up the slack and have some type of service, scheduled service, whether it’s to Grande Prairie or Peace River or wherever the case may be in Northern Alberta, to connect to the Greyhound line,” the minister said, noting there are GNWT programs that could help get that type of service started.
When Bouchard asked for a commitment from the department to investigate the costs of a subsidy for Greyhound, Ramsay suggested the MLA himself contact Greyhound and begin some discussions. The minister also said the department would attempt to find out more on the issue.
When contacted by News/North, Bouchard said he hopes the department will look into the matter.
The MLA also noted he has heard there may be other companies in Hay River and Alberta considering establishing a bus service from the south to Hay River.
“There have been a couple of different companies looking at it,” he said, although he declined to offer more information.
Hay River Mayor Andrew Cassidy said the community has noticed a negative impact since the Greyhound passenger service ended.
“It would be great to see that back again, because we did see a fair amount of road traffic like road tourism come up,” he said, adding that included many Japanese tourists. “We did notice the loss of that, for sure. It’s good that Mr. Bouchard is pushing to get that back.”