Four small school bus companies are taking the Ontario government and two Guelph-area school boards to court, claiming a new policy meant to encourage fair competition in the billion-dollar student transportation sector has killed their business. (via School bus companies taking Ontario to court - thestar.com)
- Epoch’s Garage, Cook, Doug Akitt and a numbered company, 678928, owned by a couple in Alma, Ont., say they have been ruined by the tendering policy first introduced at the Upper-Grand and Wellington-Dufferin school boards. The boards and their transportation consortium, as well as the province, are named in a statement of claim filed at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in July.
- The bus operators say they were either unable to complete the bidding process or lost routes they had run for years.
- “It’s a struggle right now to figure out how we’re going to secure more business,” said Ruth Anne Staples of Epoch’s Garage in Kenilworth, Ont., which has been forced to sell all but one of its 11 school buses.
- Bus companies have always worked on a year-to-year basis with the boards they serve. But in the past they could expect to keep that work long enough to finance their buses and cover other business costs.
- Moving to the government’s request for proposals model that favours the lowest bidder means small operators who lose their routes won’t survive to bid again because they can’t continue financing their vehicles.
- “It completely wipes out the competition. They don’t come back. It kills off the competitors and creates monopolies,” she said. “The big changes are coming in the next couple of months. There could be as many as 50 (bus operators) gone by Christmas.”
- Education Minister Laurel Broten is refusing to discuss with the association the task force report by Associate Chief Justice of Ontario Coulter Osborne, leaving the association little choice but to appeal to the courts, said Cameron.