Mr. Speaker, in January, I asked a question in the House about the hardship brought on by the closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company a year ago this month, and was encouraged when the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development replied:
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.
Having heard nothing from the minister or anyone else in the government, I sent a follow-up letter to the minister on March 14. Sadly, to this day, I still have heard nothing from the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development nor from any other minister.
The loss of STC is keenly felt by many people in Saskatchewan. If people do not have the means to own a car or they cannot drive, STC was the only affordable means of transportation. Without it, people in Saskatchewan are forced into impractical and sometimes dangerous alternatives. Women seeking to get away from domestic violence or to attend medical procedures are hitchhiking to get support and health care. Further, many families were not able to testify at the only missing and murdered indigenous women and girls hearing in Saskatchewan.
Last June, seven women's organizations from Saskatchewan sent a joint letter to the minister about the lack of public transportation for rural and remote locations in Saskatchewan. They are still waiting for a response. In March, at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women session in New York, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs was asked about the lack of response and promised to look into it. To date, these women's groups have not received a response.
If I may, I will share a story that will illustrate for my hon. colleagues just how important it is to bring back STC. Just last week, a constituent of mine who works at a trade school was contacted by one of her students. He was in Prince Albert with no means to get to Saskatoon in time to start his final year of trade training. He was not able to find a ride, and even if he did, he did not think he would have enough money to pay for someone to drive him. This constituent of mine could not bear to stand by and do nothing while all the hard work that this student had put into his training was wasted should he fail to be present for his final weeks of training. Therefore, she decided to drive to Prince Albert to bring the student back to Saskatoon. This is what people with few means in Saskatchewan are forced to do: rely on the goodwill of others or the kindness of strangers.
Saskatchewan has the second-highest rural population per capita in Canada. Seventy per cent of STC users were low-income earners and 60% of those were women. In Canada, one in five people who use public transportation is living with a disability.
Why is it that we see federal leadership, investment, and willingness to subsidize public transportation only in large urban centres? Public transportation is critical infrastructure in this country. Linking rural and urban centres, it is a sustainable, cost-effective way to connect people to health care, to education, to employment, and to family. It is a lifeline for indigenous communities and we need the federal government to lead the way.
Why will the government not act on its word and work with me and my colleagues to ensure that there is a safe, affordable, and reliable public transportation system in Saskatchewan?