Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for being here this evening, but I am saddened to have to continue to speak up about this very important issue, which is the need for safe, affordable public transportation in Saskatchewan.
The previous parliamentary secretary said, in reply to my question in the House, that “having an efficient, functional transportation system is absolutely critical”. In fact, I have heard a few different versions of this sentiment from several members of the government. From the Minister of Innovation:
As the member knows full well, this is an issue that we are working on. We will work with her office to make sure we take the appropriate steps that are required and needed to address the issue in a meaningful way.
How to explain, then, that a recent Order Paper question I submitted, asking for the list of any meetings or correspondence related to STC by officials at Innovation, came back with a shocking answer: There have been zero meetings and no correspondence on this issue whatsoever. Why did the Minister of Innovation say what he said if, in fact, no work has been done? I believe the people of Saskatchewan deserve an explanation.
Further, I heard from the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, who said:
I can assure the member that I am working with my Saskatchewan colleagues. We want to deliver for the people of Saskatchewan. There will be good news coming. I can assure her that she can come to see me or the Minister of Public Safety and my colleagues.
Well, I reached out that very same day to the Minister of Public Safety, the lone minister from Saskatchewan, for an urgent meeting. I have still not heard back. I have certainly never been contacted or approached by the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities on this issue, nor have I heard from any of his departmental officials.
The hon. parliamentary secretary will forgive me, perhaps, if I do not quite believe that the government is taking this issue seriously, despite what the Liberals say. In addition to many questions in the House from me and my NDP colleagues, I have also written to various ministers about the loss of STC and the impact this has had on families across Saskatchewan, especially people who live in northern and remote areas, in terms of safety, affordability, access to medical and education services and the ability to connect with family members, as well as about the barriers to being able to attend and participate in the only hearing held in Saskatchewan for the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
In July of 2017, my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, and I wrote a joint letter to the ministers of Indigenous Affairs, Status of Women and labour asking them to coordinate an effective federal response to the concerns raised by a group of seven women's organizations about the adverse effects of the STC shutdown. The Minister of Indigenous Affairs replied that she understood that the closure of the STC has had “some effect on commuters” but that she also understood that Greyhound Canada “continues to provide connections to communities.”
This cavalier, callous and out-of-touch response is astonishing, especially now that we will be facing an even deeper void when Greyhound Canada ends its operations in western Canada as of October 31.
The issue of adequate transportation came up repeatedly during the ongoing Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. What the minister, and by extension the government, fails to understand is that even with financial support to participate in the inquiry, people cannot move around the province without viable, safe and affordable transportation. What I fail to understand is why the government will not do anything to help the people of Saskatchewan.