The STC was an essential service because it gave everyone in the province access to safe and affordable transportation to most other places in the province.
- 70% of its riders were marginal populations. For example, seniors and rural populations. Saskatchewan has a high population living in rural and remote areas. These areas are subject to compound effects including a harsh climate and long distances between locations. The number of persons living outside a census metropolitan area (CMA) or a census agglomeration (CA) was 391,076, which accounts for 35.6% of the population.
- Disabled riders: 43% of buses are equipped for wheelchair users.
- Access to transportation in the North and in isolated communities is a must. A study in Northern BC (along a route known as the Highway of Tears) showed when people don’t have access to public transportation they hitchhike. Sask has a higher than average number of Missing and murdered Indigenous women. The Highway of Tears situation has been examined several times in recent in years.
In 2012, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry singled out inadequate public transportation as a significant cause for concern.
STC also carried blood supplies, water tests, medical patients, books for inter-library loans. ALL of these services will need to be replaced and they will still cost the public money. Most likely more money than the rates charged by STC, which because it was considered public, were subsidized.
Even the government knows the STC is essential
The Saskatchewan Party government, in the campaign to win public approval to shut the STC down, talked constantly about the STC in terms of how much it cost to run. They also cited declining ridership. These talking points are designed to obscure the fact that STC is an essential service they eliminated.
All of our public services "lose money," including health care, education, and emergency services. These services are worth it, however, because they care for people, allow more equal access to participatation in the economy and in life, and protect other things we value.
Whatever the government says now, they know it's an essential service. It's also been referred to as an essential service in the STC annual report of 2015-16:
"By linking communities, people and business, STC serves the customer and the shareholder. STC provides citizens with access to essential services in larger and rural communities. Entrepreneurs across the province have access to shipping services that can supply parts or distribute products, expanding markets beyond their local community."
Aside from being essential in the government's (past) words: it is clearly essential for many people. Essential services do not have to be used by everyone to be essential - not everyone calls upon police services or the fire department, either.
The bottom line is, the government is clearly hoping the confusion about what an essential service is will make it easier to shut one down.