School bus operators planning rally in Peterborough
March 07, 2013
Local school bus businesses from central and eastern Ontario will be in Peterborough Friday at the constituency office of Jeff Leal to welcome him to his portfolio as Minister of Rural Affairs.
School bus operators have organized a rally for 10:30 to 11:30 am, on Friday March and will be circling downtown with as many as 40 school buses.
The Independent School Bus Operators Association (ISBOA) represents companies across the province whose businesses are being threatened. In the past three years, as many as 30 school bus companies have been wiped out by new procurement rules.
"If Premier Wynne wants to show that she understands rural Ontario and small business, she can start by undoing the damage the Liberal government has done to school bussing," stated ISBOA President Steve Hull.
A 2012 Task Force into school bus contracting recommended an independent review of how school bus routes are awarded. The ISBOA says Dalton McGuinty's Liberals ignored that report, arguing the Ministry of Education continues to pressure school boards to use a procurement process that would create local monopolies.
The ISOBA says currently 24 small business owners have been forced to take their only customer to court to get a fair hearing of the legality and appropriateness of RFP's for this industry. Injunctions have stopped seven RFP from proceeding. A full trial will take place in June 2013 in Kingston.
Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario (STSCO) issued an RFP in late 2012 but agreed to suspend it until the outcome of the court case.
The ISBOA is warning school officials and parents alike that Queen's Park is jeopardizing safe, competitive, and sustainable school bus operations.
"In the short run, service will suffer. In the long run, rates will skyrocket. In other parts of Ontario where RFPs have already proceeded, safety is no longer the primary consideration. Companies with poor safety ratings are being awarded routes," the ISOBA states.
According to ISBOA Director Frank Healey, a school bus operator from Smiths Falls and a plaintiff in the law suit that will be heard in June in Kingston, the Ministry of Education has failed to do the local market assessment required by the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act (BPSAA).
"That's the irony of the whole exercise. Competitive tendering, when applied to school bussing, will virtually eliminate the competition that already exists," stated Healey.
The ISBOA represents more than 100 school bus companies, servicing more than 2000 school bus routes across the province. Visit www.isboa for more information.