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Squamish Connector seeks help

The shuttle business has fallen on tough times due to COVID-19 and the gondola closure
Squamish Connector

The closest thing Squamish has to affordable regional transit is asking for assistance.

The co-owner of the Squamish Connector, Felipe Angel, wrote to District of Squamish council, urging the municipality to help his business.

For some, since the closure of Greyhound, his bus services have been one of the only vital lifelines between Squamish and Vancouver.

With regional transit seeming still a distant pipedream, it has fallen to private enterprises like Angel's to step in and fill the gap.

It's a contribution that hasn't gone unnoticed — the Connector made it to the Top 5 in this year's Small Business BC Awards. The competition drew over 600 nominations.

"In the last five years, we have grown from being a commuter shuttle and a shuttle for the Sea to Sky Gondola, to being an essential service for a large sector of the community of Squamish," wrote Angel to council on Sept. 23.

"There are people that still depend on us day in and day out to get to work, school, medical appointments, and much more. As well there are local businesses that depend on us to shuttle their customers from Vancouver."

However, things have been tough lately.

Angel said that COVID forced the business to shut down its operations from March to June.

"We have been operating at half capacity, and are not even seeing 1/4 of the ridership that we saw previously," he wrote. "This is due to a number of factors, including: the fear of COVID and getting onto a bus, lack of commuters as people have not returned to the office and the lack of international tourism."

Angel said the company did not reach out for help the first time the gondola's cable was cut, even though tourism to the gondola has been a steady source of income for the business.

But the business can't hold out for too much longer.

"With the added burden presented by COVID, we need your help to continue to offer our services. We need support from our community, and from local and federal government as much as possible. We are a Squamish-based company and now more than ever it is imperative to help local businesses," Angel wrote.

On council's Oct. 6 meeting, Coun. Eric Andersen wanted to refer the Connector to District staff so they could see whether there are any government grants that the business might be able to apply for.

Andersen said there might even be opportunities to be pursued from Vancouver Coastal Health and the school district, among others.

Coun. Chris Pettingill, however, wondered how much help a municipality can give to a private business.

CAO Linda Glenday said the Community Charter prevents the District from helping one business over another.

The municipality, however, can send them in the right direction and provide information regarding resources that might be available, Glenday said.

Mayor Karen Elliott said she reached out to Angel and told him to try speaking with Vancouver Coastal Health and the Squamish Nation for potential opportunities.

The municipality can't provide funding or money but can provide suggestions, Elliott said.

Council voted unanimously in favour of referring Angel's request to staff, who can provide him with information.




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