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Maritime senators issue plea for Ottawa to provide financial support to Maritime Bus

OTTAWA — Twenty-one senators from the Maritimes are urging the federal government to provide financial assistance to an inter-city bus service that they say is in financial peril because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senators have sent a letter to federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, saying Maritime Bus provides an essential service to the health-care sector by transporting blood products and patients across the region.

As well, they say the service is particularly important for smaller rural towns and the francophone communities in northern New Brunswick.

The company has already requested support from the governments of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

However, the senators say Maritime Bus is not eligible for various federal support programs, mainly because it is a for-profit enterprise.

The senators also note that Ottawa provided direct funding for Greyhound when it abandoned bus routes in Western Canada.

“Because of the inter-provincial nature of (Maritime Bus), and as a matter of regional fairness, we believe that federal support, tailored to the unique circumstances of the Maritimes, is warranted,” the letter says.

“As Via Rail service remains suspended and airlines continue to cut routes to the region, it is imperative that we preserve Maritime Bus service. A tailor-made, federal-provincial agreement is the best path forward.”

Earlier this month, the president of the company, Mike Cassidy, said he has cut routes because the number of Maritime Bus passengers fell from 191,000 in 2019 to just 69,000 in 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

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