Tofino Bus, which also operates the Vancouver Island Connector, is in jeopardy of permanent closure due to difficulties created by COVID-19.
The company, which was acquired by Wilson’s Group of Companies back in 2018, was scheduled to resume operation on February 12 but announced on Monday that the service will remain suspended indefinitely, with no restart date in sight.
“At this point, we are unsure when and if we will be able to resume service given the current environment,” says John Wilson, President and CEO of The Wilson’s Group of Companies
Like many other businesses, Tofino Bus has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing a 95 per cent drop in revenue since March 2020 due to work and travel restrictions.
The bus service shut down between March and July after COVID-19 surged in Canada, however, resumed operations for the latter part of the summer and into the fall.
New restrictions implemented by Dr. Bonnie Henry towards the end of 2020 led to the service being suspended once again, with the intention of resuming on Feb. 12.
“With our current passenger counts, we are unable to cover the costs for these runs and simply cannot afford to continue to operate these routes. This is an extremely difficult decision to make as we are very concerned about the safety of the people who rely on our service,” said Wilson.
“Sadly, we have no other options.”
Although Tofino Bus provides an essential transportation service, as a privately-owned company it does not qualify for the same government subsidies as public transit, depending on ticket sales to cover costs.
At the onset of the pandemic, Wilson’s Group of Companies asked for a one?year emergency COVID recovery contract from the Ministry of Transportation to cover operating costs for Tofino Bus, however, says it hasn’t been successful.
Tofino Bus says that it is Vancouver Island’s only intercity bus service, providing 82,500 trips to twenty?nine communities and twenty?one First Nations and First Nations organizations on Vancouver Island in 2019 – its last full year of service.
Judith Sayers, President of the Nuu?chah?nulth Tribal Council says that she is “greatly concerned about the loss of this essential service that many of [their] community members rely on,” suggesting it poses a public health and safety risk for indigenous women and girls in these
“We have witnessed this on the Highway of Tears, and we know that there is still a number of Nuu?chah?nulth women who are still missing,” says Sayers. “We must ensure they have safe transportation to get to their essential destinations, so we have no more murdered and missing sisters.”
“We know how important our services are to Island First Nations and other communities and we also know the devastating effects the loss of a service like ours can have,” adds Wilson.
The company says it continues to reach out to the provincial government in search of financial support.
“It is our community members, our customers, who are most affected by this loss in service that need to be heard by the government,” said Wilson.
In a statement to CHEK News, the Ministry of Transportation said they have been in communication with the industry and have met with Wilson’s several times in order to understand the concerns.
“I remain committed to working with the sector and our federal counterparts to reach solutions,” said Minister of Transportation, Rob Fleming.