August 7, 2011
Back in the 1800’s, Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, had a dream. A dream that would connect Canada from one sea to the other: from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
Many people lost their lives building this dream. Many people overcome great challenges building this dream. Many people suffered many losses building this dream. Because of many who gave so much, this dream was accomplished. The Canadian Pacific Railway was built.
Sir John A. Macdonald praised the success of this railroad in a speech he made in 1885: “Late events have shown us that we are made one people by that road, that that iron link has bound us together in such a way that we stand superior to most of the shafts of ill-fortune.” (Quoted by Pierre Burton in The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885. Published by McClelland and Stewart in 1971.)
The railroad achieved the impossible. It allowed people to connect from one end of the country to the other. The railroad was used to help people to settle in many areas in Canada. Canada grew.
Technology gave us motor vehicles and roads were built alongside the railroad. Now people had another way to travel across Canada. More people were able to travel, not just to settle but also to vacation and explore. Technology allowed travel to be more comfortable and faster.
Now the connecting of Canadians involved connecting small, isolated, northern towns with the more settled, urban southern cities. Northern communities were able to become part of Canada. Northern residents were able to access services never before available: medical, food, employment, and education, to name a few. Northern residents were able to participate in Canadian affairs.
Since roads connected many small communities, the next logical step was to incorporate a bus service for those who did not have their own vehicles. In 1929, Greyhound Canada began operating in Alberta. The bus service now operates in eight provinces. Many Canadians rely upon the Greyhound bus service as their only means of transportation from their isolated communities to urban centres for services not available in their own communities. Mostly for medical services, sometimes for entertainment purposes, and often for employment and educational opportunities.
Now Greyhound Canada has announced that it will cancel 12 of its routes for passenger service in Alberta. For many of these communities, there are no airports or public transportation (other than the Greyhound). Residents who do not have their own personal vehicles have no other way to travel to other communities. For most of these communities, the cancellation of passenger service will mean that they will be cut-off from the rest of the province.
The country may still be connected from sea to sea. But it won’t be connected from isolated, northern communities to urban, southern centres. Considering that there are airlines that offer services from sea to sea, and only the Greyhound that offers services from small town to small town, the cancellation of these routes does not serve the needs of Canadians.
Sir John A. Macdonald believed that the railroad provided Canadians with the means to “…stand superior to most of the shafts of ill-fortune.” It appears that living the dream of being connected as Canadians has met the “shafts of ill-fortune” capable of toppling it.
For a list of the communities affected by the cancellation of Greyhound routes, please visit: http://www.greyhound.ca/home/en/servicedisruptionalerts.aspx