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Province announces transit funding for Cape Breton communities

Last November, OC Transpo put out an urgent call to Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney to find up to 150 buses — rentals to get Ottawa through to the end of 2019. The deal was never concluded.
A bus is seen in this stock image. STOCK IMAGE

The provincial government announced Wednesday it was committing more than $700,000 to help with the transportation needs of multiple communities and as a result, Eskasoni First Nation will receive $117,685 for transit funding.

“We’re excited, this is something the community members have been asking for and we got it,” said Chief Leroy Denny.

In Eskasoni, the money will go toward purchasing a nine-passenger van for door-to-door service within the Mi’kmaq community and a 20-person bus offering routes to Sydney and Membertou First Nation. The province will contribute $67,685 for the van and $50,000 for the bus.

Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny says the community will soon have public transportation as a result of provincial funding. CAPE BRETON POST
Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny says the community will soon have public transportation as a result of provincial funding. CAPE BRETON POST

Funding for the initiative was provided through the accessible transportation program and covers 75 per cent of the vehicle cost. Other funding announcements for Cape Breton communities includes: $17,353 for a five-passenger van for La Cooperative de Transport de Cheticamp; $55,385 for an eight-passenger van for Strait Area Transit, and $50,000 for a 16-passenger bus for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Denny says the transit service is something the community has advocated for in the past and the system will address some of the barriers the residents face.

Eskasoni is about 44 km from Sydney and Denny says some community members on a fixed income must pay money for rides into town so the bus will be a cost-saving tool. Bus service will come at a small fee, but the price will not be fixed until bus drivers are hired and more is known about the operating fees.

“Public transportation allows people to more fully participate in their communities and better access work, schools, shopping and important services,” said Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, minister of communities, culture and heritage in a news release.

Denny expects the transit system to be operational in early 2021 but will adhere to strict safety guidelines as the province deals with the second wave of COVID-19.

He believes reliable transportation may lead to more employment for some community members.

“Transportation is very important if you want to get to school or work,” said Denny.

In October, the Eskasoni health department launched a bus system to help ease transportation concerns when accessing health care. The recent announcement is separate from that initiative. But both are expected to help residents without vehicles travel around the large reserve.

Eskasoni has more than 4,500 residents and spans more than 100 hectares of land.

Denny says the population continues to grow and the transit system is another way to help the community.

“It’s a really good thing and we’re excited for it,” said Denny.


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Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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