Taking Games for a ride

If there were a power failure and a prolonged cold snap, would the Yukon public tolerate people charging $50 apiece for batteries? For a loaf of…

If there were a power failure and a prolonged cold snap, would the Yukon public tolerate people charging $50 apiece for batteries? For a loaf of bread? For a gallon of gas?

Nope.

It’s called profiteering — charging excessive prices for scarce, necessary or rationed goods.

And, generally speaking, society takes a dim view of it.

Except, of course, when Yukoners are offering services to the Canada Games.

Then it’s simply called business.

Take busing.

Games officials must ferry around athletes.

The event happens in a couple of months — thousands are coming, like it or not — and organizers need transport.

There’s one company capable of offering the service — Takhini Transport, a division of Watson Lake Bus Lines Co. Ltd.

It has the Canada Games over a barrel. And it knows it.

Through the year, it charges the government $75 an hour to drive Whitehorse students to school. That figure includes all its annual maintenance and upkeep on the buses.

That is, the figure is high because it reflects all the annual costs.

So, how much is the company charging to rent out its fleet during the Games, a windfall above and beyond its annual $2.6 million contract with the Education department?

Well, $85 an hour, of course.

According to Takhini’s general manager Pat Jamieson, the abrupt closure of the Cantung mine clobbered parent company Watson Lake Bus Lines.

Mines will do that to you.

Nevertheless, the company needs to make some cash. And the Games are a convenient, er, cow.

However, those in the industry suggest that absent the annual operating costs, up to $50 an hour would be fair.

So, the $85 figure represents a 70 per cent premium. For what? To assist a company hammered by a mine closure?

Well, the deal is still under negotiation.

In an odd twist, the bus company will tell the Games volunteers how many resources it needs to bus the athletes from the waterfront to the college.

It says it needs up to 50 buses.

Others with experience in the industry say it needs 18 — that calculation based on a seven-minute drive between the two points (we confirmed the drive ourselves — it came to six minutes and five seconds with one red light and a 30 km/h school zone rolled into the mix). With 18 buses, the first will be returning as the last is loaded.

The distance between the two estimates is significant.

Eighteen buses at $50 an hour would cost the Games $3,600. If the vehicles are rented at $85 an hour, the cost is $6,120.

Fifty buses — Takhini’s estimate — running for four hours at $85 an hour would cost the Games $17,000.

Sounds a bit extravagant.

Of course, the bus company is the only game in town. And so the negotiations continue.

One thing’s for sure: With the Games in town, Takhini Transport’s directors John Jamieson, president, and Said Secerbegovic, treasurer, are guaranteed gold. (RM)

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