COVID has had a devastating effect on communities and economies around the world. It has impacted things as diverse as human relationships, food and supply chains, employment, and all parts of the economy. One of the sectors most impacted is transportation. We are seeing that impact on critical transportation services right here on Prince Edward Island and throughout the Atlantic region.
News today tells us that air transportation, already significantly reduced in the region, is being curtailed in some airports entirely, and here on PEI, only a single daily flight to Montreal remains. This means for Islanders who need to travel via air to appointments or work commitments, the only option they have is to fly via Montreal.
This is further complicated when you realize that our regional bus service, Maritime Bus and Coach Atlantic, is having to significantly cut back its operations. There is also concern these businesses may need to shut down operations even further due to lack of ridership and loss of operating revenue. This would be a huge loss to our region that will impact travel and parcel services that Islanders depend on. Not only do these services connect communities across the Atlantic region, they connect Maritimers to Quebec, Ontario, and the rest of the country.
In the absence of options by air or rail, regional bus services assume an even more critical role than they already had. Government supports will be essential if this sector is to survive the ongoing challenges created by COVID.
So far the three Atlantic provinces and the federal government have failed to come forward with an agreement to provide immediate supports to this sector. We need a regional bus transportation plan that provides short term grant subsidies and long term capital equipment funding that is similarly offered to municipal transit operations. I urge Premier King to insist on an emergency meeting with the other Maritime premiers and our federal counterparts to ensure that a joint agreement is reached as soon as possible.
As we navigate through the pandemic, there is much talk of building back better. Public transportation is not only a clean alternative, it is also the only option for many low-income Islanders. This is both an immediate issue, and something that must be maintained and improved upon as we build a more equitable and greener way forward.
Honourable Peter Bevan-Baker, MLA New Haven-Rocky Point
Leader of the Official Opposition