Editorial: Monday saw steps towards resolving lack of one councillor and of city bus service

Monday was a fairly momentous day in Thompson city politics this week, marking as it did the community being one step closer to finally finding out what is going to happen regarding two local news issues that are now approaching epic saga length in terms of their time on the radar of those who care about such things.

First of all, chronologically speaking, we finally got to know who will be running for the vacant city council seat in the March 11 byelection. Unsurprisingly, Chiew Chong and Andre Proulx, the candidates who tied for eighth place with 1,008 votes on election night Oct. 24 and then 1,009 after a judicial recount, have thrown their hats into the ring once more. They are joined by Blake Ellis, who served one term on council from 2014 to 2018 and finished 23 votes behind Proulx and Chong on election night, 24 after the recount. Granted, Chong still has an application before the courts challenging the results of the municipal election, which is about three-and-a-half months in the past as of Feb. 4 when nominations closed. What’s more, the withdrawal deadline fell on Feb. 5 at 4 p.m., after this newspaper went to print, so maybe circumstances have changed and there are fewer than three candidates as you read this.

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It would be interesting to see what happens if the byelection were held and, for example, Proulx got the most votes, but then Chong’s challenge was found to have merit. More interesting still if Ellis were to win the byelection and then lose the seat through the judicial rather than the electoral process this time around. Thompson could be embroiled in its own Venezuelan-style standoff among contenders who each believed that they were the rightful heirs to the throne. That wouldn’t do much for the running of the city, but at least it would be something interesting to observe and read about. On the other hand, Chong could win the byelection and render all these speculations moot. No one can predict with certainty what may happen, but at least we can say that one half of this equation should be known in a little more than a month. Barring, of course, another tie.

A few hours after the deadline for byelection nominations passed, council voted to enter into an agreement with Maple Bus Lines to act as the provider of city transit services, something that we haven’t seen on city streets since Nov. 1, the day after Greyhound shut down its operations in Western Canada and effectively shut down public bus service within Thompson, as they had been the previous transit operator and the city administration and council didn’t act fast enough to have a replacement in place to ensure uninterrupted service.

For transit users, predominantly students, this is welcome news, though of course it is only a first step and it comes just in time to miss having bus service during the coldest time of the year. On the other hand, given that there are no details of the agreement, which has yet to be finalized, for us to analyze at this point, it is possible that the new agreement may see fares go up with the busiest time of the year having passed, causing ridership to drop and providing a good excuse to make a decision not to continue transit over the long term.

It isn’t this council’s fault that there hasn’t been transit for more than three months now, but whether there is local bus service in the future or not will be part of their legacy. The step they took Monday night was late, but it does bring those who rely on city buses to get around one step closer to having more options than their own two feet or the kindness of friends and strangers.

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