Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Minister of Education Jeanie McLean and Yukon Party education critic Scott Kent

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Minister of Education Jeanie McLean and Yukon Party education critic Scott Kent

Minister quizzed on school bus route cancellations

According to the Yukon Party, the territory’s school buses are in some dire straits.

By Tim Giilck on December 2, 2021

According to the Yukon Party, the territory’s school buses are in some dire straits.

“So, a number of school bus routes in the Whitehorse area have been partially or fully cancelled with increased frequency over the past few weeks,” Yukon Party education critic Scott Kent noted Wednesday in the legislature.

“In some cases, it has been done on short notice and has left parents scrambling to find transportation to school for their children.

“We understand that one of the contributing factors is a lack of qualified drivers. I’m curious what specific actions the Liberals are taking to assist the contractor in alleviating this driver shortage?”

Jeanie McLean, the minister of Education, said her department provides school busing, Whitehorse Transit passes and transportation subsidies to families “to support students travelling safely and effectively to and from school.

“Definitely, our underlying goal is to ensure that children are supported and that families are supported,” McLean said.

“I would like to start by saying that, like many other jurisdictions, Yukon is facing a driver shortage, and we’re working with our contractor always, Standard Bus, to support them in their recruitment efforts.”

Combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, the minister said, “this a very challenging time. In some cases, unfortunately, the busing contractor has had to cancel routes for the day. We understand the impact and challenge that bus routes can have on families.

“We are working with Standard Bus to find solutions whenever possible.”

Sometimes, the company can combine routes or have a driver cover two routes.

“We appreciate that some families are able to drive students to school when a bus is cancelled,” McLean said. “We definitely know that outlying areas have more challenges.”

Kent went on to provide more details to the minister.

“Many of the families that we’re hearing from live in areas around Whitehorse that aren’t serviced by Whitehorse Transit, so that’s not an option for them,” he pointed out.

“I am hoping that the minister can elaborate on the specific supports that they are working on with the contractor with respect to the recruitment of drivers.

“In some cases, existing drivers are caught in self-isolation due to COVID exposure notices for either themselves or their families.”

The government’s compulsory vaccine mandate for its employees took effect Wednesday, Kent noted.

“I am curious if the minister can tell us how many bus drivers are affected by the mandate and have been suspended or placed on leave without pay by the contractor.

“For those bus drivers who are in self-isolation and are double-vaccinated, are they eligible for rapid tests to allow them to be off work for a lesser amount of time?”

McLean did not deviate much from her speaking notes, and did not provide any of the numbers Kent had asked for.

“Like most jurisdictions in Canada, there is a driver shortage,” the minister said.

“I know that there have been times when Standard Bus has brought in drivers from other jurisdictions. We certainly have alleviated a lot of the issues.

“We had the schedules out really early this year, so we have had less friction around that with families and continue to definitely support them.”

Standard is dealing with driver shortages as best as it can, McLean said.

“We are working with them to develop contingency plans to help ensure that cancellations do not affect the same route for multiple days in a row.

“Standard Bus is responsible for notifying schools and families when the bus routes are cancelled,” she said.

Comments (9)

Up 21 Down 5

Davis on Dec 3, 2021 at 2:42 pm

Education needs to start enforcing catchment areas for school attendance. Right now if you make a bit of a stink you can get your kid in any school you want regardless of your catchment area, and the result is that left right and centre we have school buses picking up kids at one end of town and driving them to school at the opposite end, which makes the bussing system very inefficient. If they just tightened this up we would probably need 30% less buses in the first place.

Up 15 Down 3

JP on Dec 3, 2021 at 1:40 pm

I live within the city limit.
School bus of my kids (elementary age) have been cancelled so many times this year. Notification sometimes come 30min before pickup time. I am lucky one as my work is near the school and my office hours is very flexible so I can give them rides. However, I see the bus for senior schools from our neighborhood is never cancelled.
If the number of bus drivers is limited, routing should be reprioritized. Elementary students and students living where city buses don't go definitely need ride. Students for senior schools can take city bus or drive their cars.

Up 18 Down 11

Denis on Dec 3, 2021 at 10:42 am

Come on Scooter - get your head above water. Standard can not pay more unless you politicians pay a little more. You are acting as dumb as Currie. Try earning your exorbitant pay. Why do you not try a bill to increase dollars for this contract? Why not pay same as YTG truck drivers???

Up 18 Down 14

Lex on Dec 3, 2021 at 7:52 am

Hey I’m sure there are lots of unvaccinated drivers looking for work, so to say that there is a lack of qualified drivers is a false statement, it is merely a self made issue because you refuse to hire unvaccinated.

Up 23 Down 9

North_of_60 on Dec 2, 2021 at 10:02 pm

I agree with MLA Kent who noted.
“I am curious if the minister can tell us how many bus drivers are affected by the mandate and have been suspended or placed on leave without pay by the contractor."

Why isn't the government forthcoming with this information? Once again this LIBgov has not been transparent and accountable regarding the effect their illegal "vaccine" mandate has on Yukoners.

At no point in history have the people forcing others into compliance been the 'good guys'.
Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to keep repeating them.

Up 20 Down 3

bonanzajoe on Dec 2, 2021 at 8:20 pm

Oya: I know this to be true, that the present government as all past governments do not consider school busing a priority. It is low on the scale. That is why they don't provide money for decent wages to the drivers. They put school busing on a bidding program and take the company that offers the lowest bid. That is why, it is hard to keep drivers. You are right, children are the most precious cargo. Many of them are children of the government workers and MLAs. The government spends millions of dollars on social services to those who don't, nor will contribute to society, but give very little to the safe transportation of its most precious. It's time for our government - regardless of Party affiliation, got their priorities straight.

Up 18 Down 1

Politico on Dec 2, 2021 at 6:23 pm

Many years ago when my job folded and I was looking for work I took a stint driving bus. Luckily I like kids and ended up with a load of K-6 students, they were a riot. Parents were okay but I did get screamed at when, and this happened repeatedly, one parent would forget who was supposed to pick the kid up or that the other parent pulled the kid from school and we had a missing kid. Cell phones would probably make thing easier. My favorite was a local politician that passed me when the lights were flashing while loading kids. I got the license number we went to court. The court was told bus drivers were too bad to drive real trucks and that being distracted by all those kids made us horrible caregivers. Court believed him. I still enjoyed the kids!

Up 14 Down 21

So much whining from the YP on Dec 2, 2021 at 4:16 pm

Maybe Scott really has no clue but this is nothing new. Same thing happened when he was in government but his selective memory chose to not to recall that.

While driving bus does dovetail into to the lives of a few, it’s not for all. You have to work a split shift; a couple hours in the AM, then you’re off and back for a couple hours in the afternoon.

Perhaps Scott would like to cancel the contract with Standard and create unionized Driver positions within YG, we’d have to buy our own buses. Or what if drivers receive PDF a meaningful increase in wages? Or would Scott complain about that too.

He seems to complain a lot. Why not come up with a solution Scott?

Up 92 Down 5

Oya on Dec 2, 2021 at 2:38 pm

Standard needs to pay more if they want more drivers.

Why does the Fair Wage Schedule (FWS) not apply to the contract with Standard as it applies to all government construction contracts? The FWS sets out the minimum amount an employer can pay truck drivers, equipment operators, etc. that are working on gov contracts. A dump truck driver gets in the neighbourhood of $31.00 + per hour. Why aren't school bus drivers paid the equivalent? The job is the same... only one driver hauls dirt and the other driver hauls our most precious cargo, our children. The dump truck driver has to grease his truck, but he doesn't have to put up with screaming kids.

If anything, school bus drivers should be paid higher as the responsibility seems much greater!

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