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jc.theriault

The NS Utility & Review Board bureacracy

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Nova Scotia still regulates public passenger carriers on a safety, economic and /demand/need for service basis. Short story is Stock Transportation buys Perry Rand's bus business in Cambridge NS which included the school contract for the Annapolis Valley School Board and the intra and extra-provincial charter licenses. Stock applies to cancel the licenses for several semi-coach buses and replace them with 4 motorcoaches that were no longer needed by their US division.

They apply to the URB and the competition makes a fuss about how it's going to kill the business for them. In the end the decision is made to approve a license with board-mandated rates, a restriction on when the coaches can be used each year and that they can only be used as last resort vehicles for when their competition needs additional vehicles during cruise ship season. Stock cannot haul the general public on charters, they can't approach the cruise lines directly for that work and they can't offer the coaches to the schools, sports teams and university clients they already work with!

The board admits that they've issued a license with conditions that make operating these coaches a doubtful venture, simply in the name of protecting existing carriers, most of whom can hold their own ground. And they wonder why NS has a reputation of not being business-friendly. Here's the link to the decision:

https://nsuarb.novascotia.ca/sites/default/files/Decision%20M06816%20%26%20M06817.pdf

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Nova Scotia still regulates public passenger carriers on a safety, economic and /demand/need for service basis. Short story is Stock Transportation buys Perry Rand's bus business in Cambridge NS which included the school contract for the Annapolis Valley School Board and the intra and extra-provincial charter licenses. Stock applies to cancel the licenses for several semi-coach buses and replace them with 4 motorcoaches that were no longer needed by their US division.

They apply to the URB and the competition makes a fuss about how it's going to kill the business for them. In the end the decision is made to approve a license with board-mandated rates, a restriction on when the coaches can be used each year and that they can only be used as last resort vehicles for when their competition needs additional vehicles during cruise ship season. Stock cannot haul the general public on charters, they can't approach the cruise lines directly for that work and they can't offer the coaches to the schools, sports teams and university clients they already work with!

The board admits that they've issued a license with conditions that make operating these coaches a doubtful venture, simply in the name of protecting existing carriers, most of whom can hold their own ground. And they wonder why NS has a reputation of not being business-friendly. Here's the link to the decision:

https://nsuarb.novascotia.ca/sites/default/files/Decision%20M06816%20%26%20M06817.pdf

Did not know it was still 1916! its 2016 that is sad.

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Did not know it was still 1916! its 2016 that is sad.

It's very sad. Pretty bad when your competition gets to set the terms of YOUR license and are given the blessing to do this by the URB. The board and the motor carrier inspection office have outlived their usefulness. Licensed mechanics in the province are quite capable of doing safety inspections and the charter bus industry needs to adapt and not depend on government regulating pricing and operating licenses. Let the market figure out who survives and who doesn't.

Here's an interesting article from the Chronicle Herald date March 6th 2012. The NS system required the applicant to show need for the additional services not being met by existing carriers whereas NB requires those opposing the application to show how issuing the license would be against the public's interest:

It’s my party and Halifax can cry if it wants to.

That seemed to be the tune party-bus entrepreneur Rod Sheppard was crooning Tuesday after reporting a successful year of operations in Moncton with Party Bus Atlantic Inc.

The Nova Scotia regulator shut down the mobile party business back in 2010 after a short run.

“We’ve had a terrific year of operations here in New Brunswick. The market has been very welcoming,” Sheppard said in an interview.

It is more than a little aggravating that Nova Scotia is a missing link between his St. John’s, N.L., base and his growing marketplace in New Brunswick, he said.

Sheppard said he was up and running with his Party Bus business in New Brunswick within about three months after the provincial Utility and Review Board ousted his business from Nova Scotia, but he still had a few parting shots for a “ludicrous” regulatory regime that prevented him from operating in this province after other limousine operators complained about the competition.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be able to get a licence to operate in Nova Scotia when the utility board prevents other businesses from establishing themselves because this would be competition for the existing operators.

“Can you image how people in Nova Scotia would react if Walmart prevented Canadian Tire from opening a store because it was competition? Isn’t this just the silliest thing you ever heard?”

He said he was naive to roll into Nova Scotia with a version of his successful Newfoundland and Labrador business without first obtaining approval from the review board. It regulates bus and limousine services in the province.

It wasn’t long before the board got word of the party-bus business, which provided a mobile party atmosphere for revellers for special events. The board ordered Sheppard and a partner in for a formal application process, with objections from Absolute Charters, Molega Tours, Prestige Limousine and Town Limousine Service.

“There is very little concrete evidence of demand (for such a service) in Nova Scotia,” said the Aug. 18, 2010, board decision.

Sheppard said he and other company officials drove the two luxury buses, one worth about $150,000 and the other about $200,000, across the provincial line, where the operation has been doing a booming business.

“Fear of competition is not a legitimate argument against a new business in New Brunswick,” said Sheppard.

The party bus can offer pumped-up music and lighting and has also found a ready market in children’s and youth events, corporate gatherings, wedding and proms, and stag parties in New Brunswick, said Sheppard.

The buses can be equipped with fog machines and dance poles.

“We’re rocking and rolling in New Brunswick and its Nova Scotia’s loss,” he said. “This province is way more fun anyway.”

Board decisions are available to the public. Executive director Paul Allen did not want to comment on the decision but said the reasons for the board’s rejection are fully outlined in its report.

(bpower@herald.ca)

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