Lest there be any doubt that Saskatchewan is changing to a more urbanized place, consider a couple of news items in the last week.
The first is the news from the Saskatchewan Transportation Company that it is abandoning three of its money-losing routes to lessen its record $10-million annual subsidy.
The fact that STC that hasn’t turned a profit since 1977 is again losing money is hardly news. What was newsworthy, however, is the willingness to stop traveling on money-losing routes — a move that may not go over well in rural Saskatchewan.
The government-owned bus company announced cancellation of the Regina-Lanigan, Eastend-Swift Current-Mossbank and Blaine Lake-North Battleford routes. According to the government, the two more southern routes — running only three times a week — were only averaging two passengers per trip. Meanwhile, the North Battleford route that only ran once a week was only averaging one passenger in the past four years.
Savings could total $300,000 annual — a drop in the bucket compared with the eight-digit subsidy STC is now getting.
Nevertheless, it does seem a tough-but-prudent move for the Saskatchewan Party that relies heavily on its rural support. After all, the loss of these routes also means the loss of parcel and farm parts delivery to small communities and farms.
There again, the loss of farmers and community population in sparsely populated areas suggests the loss of these STC routes won’t be as hard to take as it once might have been.
This is a sign that Saskatchewan isn’t quite as rural as it once was.
Another news item, however, suggested that Saskatchewan is becoming more urban.
It could be found in the announcement of proposed rate hikes at Saskatchewan Government Insurance — especially for motorcycle insurance premiums that will increase, on average, a massive 73-per-cent.
Admittedly, this has little to do with the fact that there are more bikes in the city than in the country. There probably are, but that is not exclusively the factor behind these premium hikes.
The key factors, at least according to SGI, are that there motorcycles are more expenses and far more likely to get into accident. And on an annual basis, the cost of motorcycle accidents to SGI is, on average, about $9 million more than what riders pay in their insurance premiums. That means that other drivers have had to pick up the additional costs.
Of course, motorcycle riders are less accepting of this statistic and some have been quick to blame a monopoly Crown insurance corporation protected from competition from the private sector.
There might be some validity in the notion that the SGI views such a huge rate adjustment as a quick fix to this issue. It might also be possible that both the rate review panel and the cabinet might see a 73-per-cent increase as something less than necessary or immediate.
That said, there might another explanation that has more to do with our shifting and growing population.
Saskatchewan drivers benefited for years from lower auto insurance rates not just because there was publicly owned insurance but because where the publicly owned insurance company was operating.
In a province that was older than average and with a much larger rural component than anywhere else, you were simply less likely to get into an accident.
But as our population grows younger and more urban (with a greater propensity to ride motorcycles) the likelihood of all types of vehicle accidents also increases.
Simply put: We drive more vehicles. They are worth more. And — because there are more of us in the confined urban spaces of the towns and cities — they collide more.
It’s also a subtle indicator that Saskatchewan is becoming more urban than it once was.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.