Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Progressive Conservative Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford made an announcement on extended bus service for northwestern Ontario on Tuesday afternoon at the Fort Frances public library of.
“I’m pleased to announce that effective next Monday, the Ontario Northland Transit Commission will offer safe and reliable bus service connecting passengers from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, with new stops in Atikokan, Couchiching First Nation, Fort Frances, Devlin, Emo, and Sioux Narrows,” Rickford said.
This new service will be connected to the current network that includes Kenora, Vermillion Bay, Dryden and Ignace. Rickford said the buses are fully accessible with onboard washroom, have wifi connections and are operated by experienced drivers.
“These buses as you can see are beautiful,” he said.
Fort Frances Mayor June Caul said she is pleased to see Rickford work diligently for the Rainy River District.
“I can’t ever thank you enough for all you have done for our communities here and for this special day to happen after many years of having a very good friend of mine looking forward to having a bus,” Caul said. “It’s very exciting news.”
Brian Perrault, chief of Couchiching, said Rickford knows that the First Nations in northwestern Ontario are a huge part of the economic engine that drives these municipalities.
“This is where all the First Nations [spend their money],” Perrault said. “We spend our money at home, in these places and it’s good to know that we’re going to have a service like this going forward. A lot of our people don’t have vehicles.”
Because the health and safety of passengers, employees and communities is their top priority in the context of this pandemic, Rickford said, they have continually adapted, as has the ONTC, to ensure safe operations and services based on best practices based on consultation with public health officials.
“Due to COVID-19, Ontario Northland for example does require passengers to wear a face covering or non-medical mask when boarding and disembarking the bus and when walking through the aisle,” Rickford said. “They are currently working on plans to accommodate safe distancing on the bus, but someday when we’re on the other side of this pandemic, we are for the first time, quite possibly ever, going to have a state-of-the-art bus service that serves Kenora-Rainy River.”
Tickets and bus schedule are available online at ontarionorthland.ca.
– With files from Ken Kellar