Friday, March 24, 2017

The Elimination of Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC): Regressive Transportation Policy Under the Mercury-Pluto Square

On March 22, as transportation planet Mercury in Aries formed a square to "illegitimate power and hierarchy" Pluto in Capricorn, the neo-conservative Brad Wall government in Saskatchewan, my home province, announced in its budget that it will be shutting down the province's bus system. 

Yes, that's right. No public debate, no public consultation, no transportation alternatives offered. It's just over because Brad Wall and his buddies say it is. 

This government, full of "one car per person" drivers, decided that it can unilaterally eliminate (Pluto) a mass transportation system (Mercury) that people throughout the province have relied on for over 70 years. ("'It's going to be quite a nightmare': Passengers outraged by STC closure" by Jason Warick of CBC News) 

The Pluto in Capricorn bulldozer strikes again, creating a nightmarish and potentially deadly (Pluto) transportation scenario (Mercury) for many...

The Wall government was much beloved by conservatives in the heavily oil-dependent province of Saskatchewan when oil was at $100 U.S. a barrel. And this government spent and spent and spent keeping itself in that golden position. No thought for the future.

Then, of course, the price of oil crashed. As it always does. Oil is a highly-manipulated, highly-volatile, boom-and-bust commodity. This really should have come as zero surprise. But there is a strange amnesia that sets in when people are riding an oil high. They somehow believe it's going to last forever and spend accordingly. The Wall government was no different. 

The price of oil has now been halved and sits around $50 U.S. a barrel. 

And now this government has decided - as so many governments do - to make up for its own spending sprees on the backs of the poor and sick and vulnerable in society. All to save $17 million a year, which in the scope of a provincial budget the size of Saskatchewan's is a drop in the bucket.

Saskatchewan is an agriculturally-based province, meaning it has many small communities and farms spread throughout its land mass as people go about producing food to feed the world (among other activities). It also has many remote northern communities.

Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) is the only bus service that goes to many of the smaller, rural communities. It connects the little places with each other, and it also connects the little places to the cities, where people can access essential services that can't be found in the smaller communities. Many people use the bus service for doctor's appointments and medical treatments, and this decision leaves them stranded. Around 300 people used STC to access cancer treatments alone in 2016. ("STC shutdown leaves cancer patients looking for a ride" by Adam Hunter of CBC News.)

STC is also often the only company that will deliver freight to the smaller communities. 

There is a Greyhound run in Saskatchewan, but it only goes along major routes, missing the more remote and rural communities in the province.

In short, this bus is an essential service for many seniors, disabled people, sick people, rural people, students, people living below the poverty line, and people who do not drive.

I've used buses my whole adult life. I've used STC more times than I could count, primarily traveling to and from my parents' ranch. Without this mass transit system, I would have had few to no transportation options, and it fills me with dread to now have this option eliminated so unceremoniously. 

But there is something more that is being destroyed here by this short-sighted, mean-spirited little man and his short-sighted, mean-spirited little cronies, something broader, something that really hits me where it hurts. 

The Wall government is dealing a major blow to the strong collective spirit of the people of Saskatchewan, a place where people have traditionally chipped in to help each other.

Saskatchewan is the province where universal healthcare was born. The Canadian system is terribly flawed, some would even say irreparably broken, but the fundamentals remain: if you break your arm, need medication, or need to see a specialist, you can get treatment regardless of your income level. You know how Canada's health care system is often held up as one to be emulated, particularly by the U.S.? Well, it started in Saskatchewan. It started because the people in Saskatchewan didn't want to see their fellow human beings suffer. They wanted everyone to have the care they needed when they were sick or injured, regardless of income, regardless of ability to pay.

Saskatchewan is a hard place in which to survive. The climate is harsh, but it's more than that. Since the beginning of civilized humanity, independent farmers and ranchers have been under attack by the establishment. The establishment doesn't like people being self-reliant, growing their own food, feeding each other, sharing, making decisions in their own communities. In current times, the rules and regulations and bureaucracy, the manipulated markets, the high land and machinery prices coupled with low commodity prices (and now weather modification) have squeezed and squeezed and squeezed until only the true die-hards (or the people with other income streams) are left trying to make a living doing it. Because of this constant attack and lack of support, it's damned hard to make a living farming or ranching. Damned hard. 

So no matter how many generations removed they are from the family farm, in the hard-wired soul memory of the people of the agriculture-based province of Saskatchewan is the knowledge of what it's like to not have two dimes to rub together, no matter how hard you work, no matter how exhausted you are. Built right into the DNA of the people in Saskatchewan is the memory of the horror of not being able to pay for a doctor or a hospital stay when it was critically needed. The shame, the frustration, the anger, the hopelessness, the despair. Built right into their DNA is the memory of the horror of medical care being inaccessible, too far away, too far from home. Being too late to save someone they loved. All this is running through the people - not just in Saskatchewan, but definitely also in Saskatchewan. And all this has been motivation to say: no more; never again.

As the Wall government now makes it more difficult to access health care for many people in the province, as it destroys (Pluto) a transportation safe guard and safety net (Mercury), this soul horror (Pluto) is stirred. The Plutonic threads are plucked. 

The likelihood that people will not get the care they need is increased, including alternative health treatments. The likelihood that a person will put off a check-up or doctor's visit in the city for another year is increased. The likelihood that people will just put up with symptoms rather than go through the hassle and embarrassment of finding transportation is increased.

(Yes, in a country that is so dominated by "one car per person" transportation, there is often shame and embarrassment in not having transportation, in being reliant on someone else, in having to ask for a ride.)

Saskatchewan has a long history of grassroots collective struggle, of joining together and fighting for better conditions for everyone.

In the horrifying (Pluto) decision to end the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (Mercury), the Brad Wall government is disconnecting people from each other in my home province. It is striking a major blow to the collective spirit that has underpinned life in Saskatchewan for so long. 

Aside from the essential services people are being cut off from in the cities and elsewhere, this decision destroys a valuable part of Saskatchewan's culture and history. It damages a transportation network, a web, that brought us together.

This decision ends much-needed restorative and celebratory visits to family and friends. It ends the excitement and renewal of a trip to the city after many months of nothing but lonesome prairie. It ends new faces coming through your small town. It ends spontaneous conversations being struck up between strangers meeting on the bus. 

"So where are you headed?"

"Where are you from?" 

"How far till Saskatoon?"

It ends the classic smokers groupings outside the bus terminals, those transitory karasses formed and temporary connections made as the bus makes its stops along the highway. It ends the pile-ups in bus station cafeterias, like clockwork, with greasy fries and cups of coffee and the relief at being motionless for half an hour. It ends so many possibilities for non-drivers to go to new places on their own. It ends the independent travel of many, even just the knowledge that you could go somewhere if you wanted to, the spiritual freedom of that.

It also ends the jobs of 224 people, leaving them at the mercy of a very tough job market, making them vulnerable to poverty themselves.

This is regressive transportation policy at its finest - eliminating efficient mass transit while making people more reliant on resource-heavy individual vehicles.  

As many of you know, I'm anarchist, and I don't believe in the mechanism of government. This is a prime example of why. This government is not doing what's best for the people it claims to serve. It's harming the sick, the disabled, the poor, and the vulnerable in order to prop up its own bullshit facade as a "fiscally responsible, no deficit" conservative government.

Imagine what we could do on this planet if we were not being constantly attacked, eroded, and hamstrung by these establishments and institutions, by illegitimate people in positions of illegitimate power.

A better world for everyone is not only possible, it's necessary. We all deserve a world that does not prop certain human beings up on the backs of other human beings. We deserve a world that does not benefit some by hurting others. 

Imagine this world, and keep it in your mind's eye always. Because that's what we're working for. That's why we're here. That's why I'm writing this.

I know the people of Saskatchewan - myself included - will find a way. We will because we have to, and that's always been the way of it in Sask.

We'll all find a better way through these times together, no matter where we live - as we're being "ruled" by power-hungry, outdated, and treacherous beasts - because we have to find a better way. There's no alternate option. 


UPDATE May 24, 2022

Since STC was eliminated, we have seen a chaotic disaster for public transportation and for the transportation of goods in the province, including needed medical supplies. 

Anyone with a lick of sense could have told the Brad Wall government that this would be the result by eliminating an efficient and cost effective system of bus transport that had served the province for over 70 years. (And we did tell them...repeatedly.) The end result of the short-sighted actions of a handful of misguided politicians has been confusion; frustration; a massive waste of time, medical supplies, and taxpayers' dollars; the creation of dangerous and even potentially deadly conditions; shoddy, piecemeal service that serves only certain communities; and thousands of people in the province being left cut off and without transportation. The actions of this handful of misguided politicians has harmed a couple hundred thousand people in the province at least.

The ideology constantly promoted by neo-conservatives that private, corporate industry is so much more efficient and cost-effective than publicly-owned services has proven to be utterly false to a devastating degree in the case of STC. They are now paying almost as much per year to their cronies for one small part of the service STC provided, and it seems the cronies are doing a terrible job of it.

October 6, 2020: Saskatchewan Party Corporate Donor Received $60 Million Medical Contract After Crown Corporation Shut Down



Anonymous said...


Your writing means so much to all of us that frequent your website. You make sense; that's a real commodity. I don't want to
pick a fight, and I don't think I need to, you should at least partially agree: who says that the medical community isn't totally
corrupt and sleazy and half-predisposed to keep people misguided, misdiagnosed and sick? If anything, you are a friend to
me, someone I value and see wisdom in, I am not trying to argue with you on taking away the public transport of patients to facilities.
But it's just another reason to be more self-sufficient.

In my opinion, the greatest farce, the greatest industry created when there wasn't an overwhelming need for one, would be the overbearing and ridiculously priced modern medicine community. It stinks to high heaven with corruption. I am in the US so I know that it's different here, but they keep people unhealthy and offer no culpability. I am astonished how medical everything is everywhere. Everyone lives longer yet with a host of maladies that it's hard for them to get across a parking lot. Reliance on things outside your trusted community will get you duped/bankrupted/killed. You have major beef with the Fukushima event, AGREED! What makes the people in medical any different? It's not that nobody cares, it's how can you manipulate humanity in a really F-ed up perverse manner.
It almost seems like a game to them. Plutonian actions are horrible, but the silver lining is that they free you. Your province has
just been shown behind the dark curtain. It was only revealed because that's how weakened the plutocracy is feeling. Vulnerable
to exposure. Everyone has to scramble again for the umpteenth time, always pushing us off our center point so we are compromised.
Health money environment; unrelenting stressors. If you breathe, you then see how crazy and nonhuman their agenda is, they are
unmasked. Then people will say "hey I respectfully request you listen, we have rights". No dummies, you have rights on a good day,
when oil is $100 a barrel. If things go south for the elite, you have the right to get tear gassed or bean bagged or beat up and detained. There's your rights. Does anyone still cling to this antiquated Sunday school ideology that someone has our best interests or fairness in mind? Please please please wake up to the depth of your oppressors perverse nature. We are not represented in the least.
Not only is the medical culture NOT holy ground, it's the first place they start. I know that I went off on a tangent as far as the medical community. You mentioned that patients won't have transportation in your province now. In some cases the medicine/treatment helps. For some who can't make the trip anymore, it may be a blessing. I would say that I may be wrong when it comes to Canada however, I heard many good things about health care there. In the US, it's all devils and frauds who are quick to destroy anything that meddles in their rigged game. We are just another species to write off as far as they are concerned. They are not anything like us, if they have it hard, all bets are off.

Willow said...

"But it's just another reason to be more self-sufficient."

I find that this is the prevailing mindset these days (Ayn Rand fans?), and it's really problematic, especially because we are all forced to play along in a corrupt, capitalist, fiat currency-driven system that doesn't allow for true alternatives in most cases.

That "self-sufficiency" rhetoric is also what fuels the shame people feel when they do not have transportation/are not vehicle drivers.

I wonder how much of that "self-sufficiency" comes from being able bodied with a strong social network and expendable income at one's disposal?

The truth of the matter is, no matter what the Ayn Rand fans claim, we are inter-dependent in human society. There is no such thing as a purely self-sufficient human being. We are always benefiting from the work, infrastructure, ingenuity of others.

And this policy is destroying a web of inter-dependence. Mass transit is one of the things that MAKES people more self-sufficient.

"Please please please wake up to the depth of your oppressors perverse nature."

You're telling me I need to wake up to this? A person who has been left partially disabled and in chronic pain from pharmaceuticals poisoning, a pharmaceutical that never in a million years should have been prescribed to me in the first place? A person who has been fighting the fight since she was a child?

Preach elsewhere, s'il vous plait.

I believe you are incorrect about the allopathic medical system, also. There ARE cases where it is needed and where it helps people. People DO need surgeries at times. They DO need to see specialists, for complex bone breaks, for example. They do need to purchase specialized medical equipment that is not available in their area. Regardless of your opinions, there are people who may die without cancer treatments or other allopathic treatments.

There are situations where a person needs to access physiotherapists, chiropractors, alternative practitioners. As I state in the article, this includes alternative treatments that cannot be accessed in rural areas, as well.

I find your argument very strange, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

great piece and agreed with the commentary at 3:13 regarding "self sufficiency" --- public transit where everybody pitches in for transport for all is a perfect example of community/group self-sufficiency. and there are lots of positive ripple effects like those cited in the original post in addition to the savings that can be documented on spreadsheets.

Anonymous Ginger Patron (AGP)

Willow said...

Exactly, thank-you, AGP. (3:20 now...had to edit something. ha.)

This is a huge step, 70 years backward.

I don't know if there has been a more regressive transportation policy en masse in Saskatchewan since they got rid of passenger trains in favour of individual vehicles, pouring all the resources into them and the highways system.

As I say in the article, medical treatments are just one area that is being affected - with a very vulnerable group.

This is huge.

Anonymous said...

makes me wonder if some of the farmers in the affected areas will be forced to sell their land to big agribusiness operators, particularly any that might also have oil under their soils that they may not know about it.

(Not to get conspiratorial)


Willow said...

I don't think they'll get the farmers/ranchers off the land that easily. It's only hardcores left at this point, pretty much. With big trucks. lol

But yeah, it's a very good point. Starving rural areas of services is definitely part of the plan to force people into urban areas, in my mind, and losing this bus system is one element of that "service starvation." It makes people even more isolated.

I think seniors who use the bus could think twice about living in a rural area of Saskatchewan because of this.

As a non-driver myself, I have a policy of only living on a bus line. So this would really make me think twice about living in rural Sask. again, too.

Anonymous said...

Willow, I was the original "anonymous" that discussed self-sufficiency. This is what I feared, I was shooting from the hip and it should have been more tempered. I was vague when I said to please wake up, I did not mean anyone in particular. I did not edit that comment or proof read it and should have. I watched my mother die young, slowly at the hands of incompetent doctors/bad pharmaceuticals. My father soon followed. One of the beautiful things about people is their good-naturedness, their ability to take you at your word, their earnest desire to help their fellow man. Community is (generally speaking) beneficial for all, that's why it came to be. But what if that good-heartedness and acceptance of authority/belief in a moral society is played against you. I wrote that medicine in Canada may be far better than the US, I can't speculate. But I know that my parents were none other than victims of it here in the US. My best friend had a cyst that popped on his shoulder one day, he went to the doctor. It was misdiagnosed as malignant, they removed 7 lymph nodes, and he went from 185 lbs to under 100 lbs in a 4 month period. He kept saying "why? I don't need surgery I feel fine." He was dead at 38 years old, left a wife and two kids to fend for themselves. The whole thing seemed utterly over the top and pointless.

I am upset, maybe crazy, maybe I am just plain dumb, but I hurt. I have lost people and they are never coming back because somebody somewhere wanted to make a buck or worse yet, just plain incompetent in positions of importance. Maybe I mean that self sufficiency extends to a network you can trust. Whatever or wherever that may be. Many things that used to be within the fabric of a community have been taken and influenced far outside of it, and the impact leaves you cold.

I had ZERO intent in shaming anyone who has no personal transportation and requires public. That simply never entered my mind at all. You got a bad situation up there, it sucks and it's totally cruelly unfair. But it speaks volumes about the people in charge. Hospitals aren't hurting for money, and it's socialized medicine, you should see some kind of proposal for medical shuttles if they cut public transportation.
If anyone can see the putrid "divide and conquer, make people's lives smaller and more arduous" strategy they are employing its you. I wasn't going after anyone on this blog, and I don't feel any more enlightened than the next when it comes down to it. I am just frustrated and there is no outlet. I am sorry if my comment came off wrong. I am just rooting for the decent people out there and I am tired of them getting tricked and marginalized and taken from. I've been on your website for 4-5 years. Your writing resonates with me. Maybe I dont write well, maybe I am caustic in my approach, but I know I am right about how awful all this is. I am not just some jackass troll.

Anonymous said...

yeah, sask peeps seem pretty tough.

speaking of which, the sask themed astro posts on this blog are really quite exceptional. this one is right up there with "Tales from the Police State" and the infamous "You Only Love Me for My Potash".


Willow said...

I think there was a hip hop song that went a little something like that...

Thanks for the compliment.

Anonymous said...

hip hop song about love of prairie potash?

Willow said...

About prairie women being tough.

Willow said...

I, of course, understand how toxic, deadly, and evil much of the allopathic medical establishment is. It kills and disables hundreds of thousands of people every year in the U.S. and Canada alone. I'm deeply sorry for anyone who has been a victim of this insane system.

That said, there are still instances where the allopathic system works, is needed, and is the only alternative.

Sure, we can talk about ideal scenarios. But we have to live in the current reality.

The alternative health system as it exists cannot treat all ailments/injuries at this point. It is also often cost-prohibitive and difficult to access.

The unfortunate situation is that all the resources are being poured into the allopathic system, and this system has attempted to dominate across the board, including in areas where it has no business being. The pharmaceuticals industry is full-on criminal at this point. The vaccine industry is full-on criminal. There are dangerous and unnecessary procedures and treatments being prescribed and carried out every day, causing huge, irreparable damage to people.

I'm sorry you have lost loved ones to this horrific system, Anon.

But the arguments you are making about the loss of the bus system forcing people into self-sufficiency don't make sense to me.

The truth is, the allopathic system is needed at times in the current reality in which we are living, and the loss of this bus system is huge.

The Canadian health care system is not all that well-funded. Usually it's cutbacks every year. So passenger shuttles, while a great idea, is a pipe dream under the current regime.

Anonymous said...

yeah that one too


Sofia said...

Willow there's a lot of fraudulent things are happening in government. Canada is being used for international money laundering ever since the Canadian dollar is running side by side with the US one. Unfortunately for Canada politicians are adapting foreign "attitudes. I can not believe the stuff I read in my birth country what politician are trying to force upon people I can no longer recognize my country what I have left behind and what it's becoming corruption is all over the place people leveraging one an other in a different society they change their skin like a snake shading just wondering how much is the American politics is influencing yours over there because quite a bit of Canadian pharmacy is doing business here in the us. After the president failed attempt to repeal aca they still try to work around it I'm sorry you lost your public transit perhaps Uber is looking for a place to stash some money away for some rainy days.

Sofia said...

Willow it sounds to me the residents of the town maybe forced out because the keystone pipeline started to be built again while here in the us in some cases they can use eminent domain the laws I suppose are somewhat different I smell corruption..

Willow said...

"Agenda 21. They want humans out of rural areas and are doing this all around the USA"

Yep, but it's been going on for hundreds of years at this point.

Greg F said...

Hi Willow,

What a tragedy (losing bus service!) I can't afford a vehicle on my tiny disability check, and rely heavily on local transit here in Olympia, WA. That 17 million C they are saving is a pittance compared to the overall budget of Saskatchewan.

That's like Trump's budget director suggesting canceling Meals-on-Wheels and free school lunches for elementary school kids. It is blatantly cruel and doesn't help counter the trillion dollars they spend annually on the military. No one can make the Pentagon do an audit, either.

BTW, I had necessary surgery last month, and got a UT infection, so of course they gave me Cipro! I was in such agony from the pain of the UTI, I had to take my poison. It did cure it right away, with none of the side effects you had to endure, thankfully. So once again, I am cancer-free, my third bout with the nasty stuff.

Thanks for the latest articles, Willow. I've been offline for about 5 weeks.

Greg F

Willow said...

I'm glad you're on the mend, Greg F.! I hope that is the last health situation you have to deal with.

Willow said...

Update: there are rallies in communities across Saskatchewan to save the STC bus service. There was one in Regina recently, and there is one in La Ronge (a northern community) and one in Saskatoon on March 31.

The issue is getting some mainstream media play, and there are online campaigns going on, as well.

There is a big public outcry underway. Hopefully we can get this horrifically regressive decision reversed!

Willow said...

Just an update on what has been going on in Saskatchewan...

There have been rallies and protests ongoing since the budget cuts were announced that will, among other things, annihilate the province's bus system. There were 800 - 1,000 protesters outside the mucky muck Premier's Dinner in Saskatoon. The local media reported "dozens" and "a hundred."

The students from the University of Regina are today (May 1) setting up a 24-hour camp on the lawn across from the Parliament buildings. This will include four more days of action, including a "Save the Saskatchewan Transportation Company" press conference on the Legislative Building steps on May 4 at 1 p.m.

A rally outside the Member of the Legislative Assembly office in North Battleford will also be held May 12 from 12:15 - 12:45 p.m.

Willow said...

Today, people packed a Regina, Saskatchewan court room as part of the ongoing efforts to stop the STC from being dismantled:

"ATU Local 1374 and Save STC are asking the court to review the government's decision to stop providing bus and freight delivery service to the citizens of Saskatchewan because it violates the Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act. The hope is that the court will give an order suspending the closure of STC until a full hearing of the legal arguments can be heard."

It was literally packed with people opposing the dismantling of STC, no more room.

Willow said...

Saskatchewan Party Corporate Donor Received $60 Million Medical Contract After Crown Corporation Shut Down

Sask Party abruptly shut down the Saskatchewan Transportation Company and privatized public medical courier services

by PressProgress
October 6, 2020

One of the Saskatchewan Party’s corporate donors was given a $60 million contract to deliver medical supplies shortly after the province shut down the Saskatchewan Transportation Company and privatized public medical courier services.

The STC was a provincial crown corporation that provided intercity bus routes for over 200,000 people in the province. It was also used to transport medical supplies like blood plasma, pharmaceuticals and vaccines between Regina, Saskatoon and the province’s rural communities.

In 2017, the Sask Party government abruptly shut down the STC after over 70 years operating in Saskatchewan.

LifeLabs, a privately-owned laboratory services provider, is among a patchwork of private, for-profit companies who now provide courier services for rural communities in the absence of the STC.

In 2018, LifeLabs was awarded a 7-year contract worth $60 million from the Saskatchewan Health Authority to provide “community laboratory collection services.”

LifeLabs also received $631,006 from the Saskatchewan Health Authority in 2017, although the SHA annual report does not specify which service was provided.

Since 2014, Elections Saskatchewan records show LifeLabs has donated $27,325 to the Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party.

The company was already well-positioned to take over from STC. In 2016, 3sHealth, a non-governmental agency that provides services to the public health sector, gave LifeLabs a 3-year contract for “the supply of provincial courier services” in four health regions, including “rural courier services.”

3sHealth confirmed to PressProgress that “LifeLabs was awarded the majority of the 2016 courier contract,” with the remainder going to Dynamex.

“LifeLabs has been providing lab courier service to and from SHR rural lab sites roughly since the closure of the STC,” health workers reported to SEIU-West in 2017.

Provincial healthcare workers complain that the privatized arrangement is not an efficient use of healthcare resources or taxpayer’s dollars.

“Right now we are paying private companies and cabs to transport all over the province,” one healthcare worker told SEIU-West. “One cab ride can cost upwards of $400.”

“Transportation is a nightmare for both the shipping site and receiving site. It was much simpler with STC,” another worker said.

Jacob Alhassan, a PhD Candidate at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine, interviewed health care workers to assess the health impacts of the STC closure.

“The STC was a very standard system that was integrated into the healthcare system in such a way that things could be planned easily,” Alhassan told PressProgress.

One worker told Alhassan in 2019 that they’re “having to rely on private courier services” — “Sometimes it’s frozen, sometime’ its too hot – we are throwing out thousand of dollars of medication – we never know when medication is showing up.”

“It’s really hard to tell someone with cancer you can’t have your medication today because your drugs didn’t show up.”

Corporate donations are a major source of funds for the Sask Party, accounting for $1.2 million in funds in 2019 alone.