Same premise, different responses: Greyhound Canada approached the government of a province to tell them that the bus service being provided is bleeding money, threatening that the only way to ensure continuing service across the entire province is for the government to provide Greyhound with annual payouts of several million dollars.
The Government of Manitoba heard this in 2009 and went "Here is four million dollars for this year, another four million next year as well, and four million the year after that; we may or may not have a plan in place by 2012 to deal with this situation."
The Government of Alberta heard this in 2011 and went "Well, all right, let me think. No." and promptly deregulated Greyhound's previous monopoly on rural service, opening the door to any company that meets the safety requirements and defanging Greyhound's leverage straight out of the gate.
If you're anything like me, you enjoy it when companies get greedy and their best-laid plans then promptly backfire on them. So this was pretty cool, except that we in Manitoba look kind of like chumps because of it. (You sort of figure we're used to that by now, though.)
The two situations are, of course, not perfectly identical; Alberta is in a far better position to rapidly assemble a provincial transportation network from the materials available. But the idea that the Have province walked off without paying anything and the Have-Not province coughed up twelve million dollars to think about it, well, what do you even do with that.
The Canada Post coverage of the Alberta case adds that "Officials say most rural communities are on board with the change", which could be complete smoke on the officials' part, but we have no real reason not to take it at face value right now. So what is to stop Manitoba from examining the Albertan example, pitching the idea to the rural communities that would be affected by a de-Greyhounding of the province, and shopping the proposal around the other bus companies to gauge interest? Or what is to stop Manitoba from investivating our provincial Greyhound service, gleaming where the existing service loses its money, and launching a Crown replacement?
(I assume here that they withdrew information from Greyhound on why and where routes are having problems; I wouldn't have given out four million dollars a year without at least getting a PDF's worth of explanation back, but I guess that's why I'm not with the province.)
Not knowing the province's current internal dealings and plans for the situation, I couldn't say one way or the other what might be stopping them -- but that's not where I want this example applied, this story of a regulatory body rejecting the private sector's cynical attempts at hardball by deregulating the industry to solve the problem at hand. Instead, I want to believe that somebody might print out and mail this news story to each and every member of the Manitoba Taxicab Board -- and the next time Duffy's and Unicity band together in the name of squeezing out prospective new taxi companies in the city, that at least one member of the Manitoba Taxicab Board will steeple his or her fingers and stare flatly at them.
"You know," he or she might say. "I read this story about Alberta the other day."