Liberal Govt Pays Lawyers $1.6 Million to Prolong Fight Against Small Rural Bus Companies

Family-owned school bus companies tell their story on YouTube

KINGSTON, ON, April 29, 2014 /CNW/ - Court documents filed this week show that the Liberal government has paid private law firms $1.6 million dollars to fight small, rural bus companies who are trying to stop unfair and unlawful RFPs.  The government is using taxpayer money to fund litigation, even though school bus operators have won in court five times, the courts have issued injunctions against the Requests for Proposals (RFPs) mandated by the government, and most boards didn't want to implement this policy in the first place.

A new YouTube video documents the industry's saga. The video, called "The Biggest Bully on the Bus", tells the story of family businesses that were "thrown under the bus" by Ontario government policy that favours big business, and the lengths the industry is going to fight for safe, affordable student transportation.

When school boards have wanted to withdraw unfair RFPs and negotiate fair contracts with operators, the government has prevented them from doing so and agreed to pay private law firms so that the consortia would resist the cancellation of unfair RFPs. In one case the government has paid a legal team of up to 9 lawyers over $1.2  million dollars after the consortium said it would withdraw an RFP that operators said favoured large multinational companies over small rural operators.

The decision to cover the legal fees and court costs was made at the highest level of the Ministry of Education by Deputy Minister George Zegarac and Assistant Deputy Minister Gabriel Sekaly. The government has refused to allow the school boards to withdraw their RFPs and negotiate with operators, even though negotiated rates have been below the cost of inflation for years.  This month, Stock Transportation and First Student, two large multinational companies, gave notice to three consortia that they needed rate increases of 10 and 12% respectively or they would "exit the market".

The government's determination to impose unfair RFPs on rural bus companies is perplexing, given the overwhelming evidence that they are providing quality service at fair prices.  According to ISBOA Executive Director Karen Cameron, "The Auditor General, the government's own consultants, and the Task Force chaired by the Hon. Coulter Osborne have all warned of the risk that RFPs in school busing will eliminate competition, create monopolies, and lead to high costs.  We are now seeing these predictions come true.

In 2013, ISBOA members served 3400 of the 18,000 daily school bus routes in Ontario. Many members are second and third generation businesses who have served their communities for years, providing safe, quality services at a fair price.

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SOURCE Independent School Bus Operators Association

For further information: Karen Cameron, 905.228.2091, info@isboa.ca, www.isboa.ca