Sunday, December 30, 2007

GST and Special Transportation Providers

About two years ago, we noticed that "handibus" and para-transit organizations were eligible for 100% GST rebate.

We figured that if the Roblin And District Handi-Van could get some $1,500 then we should investigate our eligibility.

We took a look at the rules, sent off a letter and were informed that among other things, we should provide a copy of our operating agreement with the municipality.

It's funny how something simple was a problem.

Technically, we didn't have any operating agreement, contract or any other form of memorandum of understanding. Since 1980, we've been providing service to our region, working with as many as six municipalities. Each year we would apply for funding and take our chances.

Our funding has never been consistant, some years municipality A had some funds and other years municipality B had the funds. Somehow we always managed despite our municipal funding seldom being more than 20% of our revenue stream.

So we sat on this GST re-application process and dealt with the day to day issues of providing a rural service.

The Town of Crossfield's Municipal Council understood our plight, passing a motion for their Chief Administrative Officer AKA Town Manager (it's an Alberta thing) to sign a memorandum of understanding between ourselves and the town. The trouble was that we had to draft the document.

I was in a quandary.

We needed to produce an operating agreement that said we would provide service yet not put the town on the spot for better funding. This would be a document that promised service without suggesting the promise propect of full funding support. This was the kind of agreement that you never wanted to put in writing, especially if it was to be a template for all the municipalities in our service region.

The GST application stayed on the back burner until summer 2007 when I decided to take up the challenge again.

Checking the appropriate taxation guide , we were delighted to find this new example in the text:

"An organization supplies public passenger transportation services to the general public similar to municipal transit services. The organization is not under contract with the municipality to provide the services. The public passenger transportation services may be designated as municipal transit services to make the supplies exempt. The organization may then qualify to be designated as a municipality to claim the municipal rebate."

Someone had updated the guideline document, providing an new example that described EXACTLY how we operated. Suddenly the operating agreement requirement became redundant.

Unfortunately, the guidelines didn't exactly spell out how to meet the requirements of this new example. A brief phone call to the GST directorate yielded the helpful advice of "don't be afraid to include too much documentation with your letter." Our one-page letter was accompanied with annual reports, newspaper clippings and anything else we imagined to be relevant.

Three months later we had our confirmation letter.

For our operation, with six drivers and a $400,000 budget. This simple ruling meant a $14,000 rebate for 2007. As a registered charity, we were already claiming a 50% rebate. This ruling meant an addition $7000 returned to us annually.

Once again here are the docs:

GST/HST - Public Service Bodies - Rebates for Municipalities

GST/HST Information for Municipalities guide (RC4049)

Two last thoughts:
  • Don't be afraid to contact CRA for advice (they actually want to help), unfortunately there is no avalanche of applications before the GST Directorate so the staff taking your call may not be aware of what exactly you are looking for.
  • The last line of our letter asked for our status to be retroactive to January 2005 -- the year we originally wanted the rebate status for. It was granted and but we never confirmed if retroactivity was available just for the asking or because we specifically asked for it.

Big agency or small agency, this one-time status change is worth the effort. Let us know if it works out for you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Big Lakes Transit

I gather that several months ago, the Municipal District of Big Lakes was awarded some $666,000 from the Canada- Alberta Infrastructure fund.

Well they are still plugging away at the project. For some obscure reason, notification of their environmental assessment crossed my desk

"Develop a rural transit system to service communities of Village of Kinuso, the Town of High Prairie and the M.D. of Big Lakes, and the hamlets of Enilda, Faust, Grouard, and Joussard. Big Lakes Transit would operate a 3 bus fleet running from the Village of Kinuso in the east to the Town of High Prairie in the West with stops along route. Project includes: Rolling stock, Transit shelters, Shelter Lighting, Bus housing, and Transit pass equipment."

(the might oak was once just a nut like you...)

Monday, October 22, 2007


Some days ya just got to shamelessly plagerize something:

I keep an eye on ~ PARATRANSIT WATCH ~

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA - The Walter Callow Wheelchair Bus is a non-profit, non-sectarian corporation founded in 1948. Although Walter Callow was left paralyzed and blind after a flight training crash in 1917, he remained active in life and business. From his bedside at Camp Hill Military Hospital in Halifax he directed his staff who worked in an adjoining suite of offices. During World War II he helped raise money in support of the troops. It was because of this work and his own experience as a disabled veteran that he recognized a need for the disabled to get out of institutions, and participate more fully in the life of the community. Beginning in 1945, he supervised the conversion of a bus for those in wheelchairs and eventually established a non-profit corporation to organize and perpetuate it's service. It continues to this day providing group recreational transportation for persons with disabilities in the Halifax Regional Municipality and surrounding area.

Speaking at Walter Callow's funeral in 1958, Camp Hill's chaplain noted: "Walter Callow must have known many dark hours, but he learned that it is not the darkness that matters, but what the darkness does to one." Such a life is an example of not only what one can do for the disabled, but what the disabled can give to society.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Regina paratransit user hits the city's limits

This is an old story (2001) but a common problem

Regina paratransit user hits the city's limits

Regina paratransit user hits the city's limits

Last Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2001 | 12:35 AM ET

CBC News

For a Regina man, it's a matter of human rights. For the city of Regina it's a matter of principle.

At issue is whether the Regina's paratransit bus service should take passengers even a few hundred meters outside the city.

John Addie says city paratransit won't drive him the last short distance to work. That's because Addie's office is just past Regina city limits.

This is far as Regina paratransit will take John Addie.

Every day the paratransit bus drives him to a parking lot on the edge of town. And every day a taxi takes him the rest of the way.

"I see their point in a way," says Addie. "But at the same time, when I'm so close to work, it makes me think they could go the extra two blocks."

Addie complains the city does make exceptions. He's seen the paratransit buses unloading passengers at a funeral home across the street.

But the city officials say special occasions, like funerals, are exceptions and that Addie can't expect daily rides outside Regina.

Addie met with those officials Wednesday without success. He says he may file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission next.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

a guide to acquire Demand response (para-transit) scheduling software uide

If you are looking to jump into the world of computerized sceduling and record-keeping, this guide is a must. It's kind of simplistic but there is a simple checklist of features that makes a world of difference to you as you are trying to discern what you need versus what you would like. (Needs vs. wants?)

From the The Pennsylvania Training Resource and Information Network,
Guide for Acquiring Demand Responsive Transit Software and Technology

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Leduc to operate Special Transportation

City of Leduc to operate Special Transportation
March 2007

LEDUC, AB. At the request of the Leduc Special Transportation Association, effective April 1,2007, the City of Leduc will assume operation of the Leduc Special Transportation Services.

“The transition stems from concerns raised by the Leduc Special Transportation Association lastyear,” said Mayor Greg Krischke. “The demands on the service were increasing to the level thatit was no longer feasible for the service to be operated by a volunteer board.”

The Leduc Special Transportation Association made a presentation to Leduc City Council in 2006 outlining their concerns. Since then, the City and the Board have been working ondifferent strategies for continued provision of special transportation service to the community. It was eventually determined that the best solution was to transfer responsibility for the service to the City of Leduc.

More at:
Press release

Brand new van for Nanton

Brand new van for Nanton, how handy
Aaron Carr
Tuesday September 04, 2007

Nanaton News

The Nanton and District Handi-Van Society announced on Friday, Aug. 31 that they have purchased a new Handi-van to serve the Nanton area.

This is the third van the society has used since forming, with the last van purchased
in 1994.

“We needed a new one with more wheelchair room,” said Duane Duncan, Nanton and District Handi-Van Society President.

The new bus has room for up to four wheelchairs and can either be configured to transport four wheelchair passengers and six seated passengers, or three wheelchair passengers and eight seated passengers.

The new Handi-Van, a 2007 Crestline E-350 Super Duty, will be used on Tuesdays and Thursday by the Calgary Health Region to take people to classes and field trips. This service is intended for seniors and other people who may not otherwise be able to get out and around.

The other five days of the week, the Handi-Van will be available to anyone who needs it for medical trips to Calgary, High River
or Vulcan.

“Ambulances can’t take wheelchairs,” Duncan explained, adding that the new Handi-Van will provide people with better access to and from their medical appointments.
The Society is also considering renting the van out at a future date, but right now, the focus is on those with medical needs.

“We didn’t get it to make money on it,” said Duncan, “we got it to support the people that need it.”

To book the van for a medical appointment, call the FCSS at 646-2436. The cost is $.50 per kilometre plus the cost of the driver.

The FCSS has a list of drivers in their offices, but more drivers are needed to ensure full coverage.

If anyone is interested in becoming a Handi-Van driver, which requires a Class 4 license – call Duncan at 646-2340 or fax an application to 646-2478.

The Nanton and District Handi-Van society will be holding a fundraising casino event this coming January to raise money for the van and its maintenance.

Basic Tools: creating vision and creating a service

I'd like to start introducing introduce you to a couple of awesome resources that I have found handy. They are from the Kansas University Transportation Centre

Getting Started -- Creating a Vision & Strategy for Community Transit. is described as "
a seven-part process for either starting a new transportation system or expanding and modifying existing transportation services."

Once you are into the actual provision of service, you need to read this document.
Developing, Designing and Delivering Community Transportation Services. THe most important tool of this document is the questions guiding you to a "Service Description" for your organization.

Developing policies for service can be exasperating. However this guide allowed us to draft our service description document in an afternoon. I suggest you try it for yourself. You may be amazed how the simple act of writing down your actions makes life easier.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

CharityVillage® Research: Developing a business case

More than once, I have faced a blank page as I struggled to explain a strategy. If I had only had this quick guide, those tasks would have gone so much easier!

CharityVillage® Research: Developing a business case

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Proposed lobbyist act unwieldy, say non-profits

Proposed lobbyist act unwieldy, say non-profits:

"Two of Alberta's largest non-profit groups say they will fight a new act that would track government lobbying, calling it an administrative nightmare. Karen Lynch, a spokeswoman for Volunteer Alberta, said the rules will force non-profits to register every conversation they have with a politician."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Alberta Lobbyist act- asking questions

(We sent a brief question to ServiceAlberta regarding the lobbyist act. It took three tries to get a response)


Thank you for visiting the Alberta Government feedback web site. Following is the response to your question prepared by Justice and Attorney General [JAG]

On 2007-08-16 09:27:00.0 you wrote:

my question regards the pending lobyist act legislation

Is there a difference under the proposed act between receiving funds for services (e.g. rural special needs transportation of an individual) and "paid advice"?

For example: We have 1-2 passengers where alberta treasury issues a cheque for the invoiced amount for transportation (typically 25% the actual cost of transportation -- we are subsidizing the province in these cases)

Our lobbying effort is roughly six letters a year. generally asking the provice on the status of the Uncondition Municipal Grant Program review -- a program that slashed provincial support for specialized transportation (handivan, DATS, etc) in 1994 and that has not been reviewed since 1994.

We would like to know how we will be affected by the new lobbyist legislation.

Justice and Attorney General responds as follows:

Thank you for your comments regarding Bill 1: Lobbyists Act.

In May 2006, an all-party committee reviewing the Conflict of Interest Act recommended the government establish a lobbyist registry. Following this recommendation, Premier Ed Stelmach introduced Bill 1 to demonstrate the Government of Alberta’s commitment to transparency and integrity.

The Bill will establish a lobbyist registry providing public access to information regarding organizations and interest groups seeking to influence government decision-makers. Lobbying government is a legitimate activity. It is important however, the public and public office holders know who is engaged in lobbying activities.

The Bill has three key features:

1. Creating a lobbyist registry.
The registry will be administered by the Ethics Commissioner to ensure independence from government. People who are paid to lobby government will be required to register as lobbyists.

2. Prohibition.
Under the Bill it will be an offence, punishable by a fine of up to $200,000 for a person to both lobby and provide paid advice to the government on the same matter at the same time. It is not an offence to both lobby the government and receive payment from government for providing services other than advice to government.

3. Creating an Index of Accounts Paid.
The Bill requires government to provide a publicly accessible list of accounts paid by government, allowing Albertans to see who is doing business with the Government of Alberta. It is anticipated this index will be published online and updated on a quarterly basis.

The Bill also recognizes there are basic communications that do not qualify as lobbying, such as discussions with a public office holder about whether a person qualifies for a program, or whether a law or policy applies to a person. Most forms of communication between an MLA and their constituents are not considered lobbying under the Bill. It is important to ensure that MLAs and other public officials maintain free and open dialogue with their constituents and other Albertans. The Bill is designed to strike the appropriate balance.

Alberta Justice has developed a guide to the Bill to facilitate understanding of it. It is located on Alberta Justice’s website: .

On May 29, 2007 Bill 1, the Lobbyists Act, was referred to the Standing Committee on Government Services. The Committee will review the Bill and report back to the Assembly. The Standing Committee on Government Services is an all-party policy field committee chaired by Harvey Cenaiko, MLA Calgary Buffalo. The Committee is seeking input from interested stakeholders. Information about its review process can be found on its website at . The deadline for written submissions is August 24, 2007.

Albertans will be kept informed of progress on Bill 1 through the government website at . Additional information regarding Bill 1 will be posted to Alberta Justice’s website at .

Again, thank you for your comments.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Alberta lobbyist act and non-profit organizations

Short version:

As proposed, the new Alberta Lobbyist Act (bill 1) will require considerable extra demands on Alberta's voluntary sector as an intrinsic result of the collaborative nature of the sector.

One challenge will be the requirement to document communication with "public office holders." The provinces definition of "public office holder" is very, very broad. A simple inter-agency meeting may become the source of several reports because a school board trustee or a Community liaison of the Children's Services office attended a lunch-time meeting for share information.

Albertan's volunteering their time to Alberta on task-forces, committees or various board would also be considered public officials -- a family barbecue might require the executive director to document communication -- time that may be better spent addressing Alberta's neglected social infrastructure.

The Muttart Foundation is responding to the government's invitation to provide input on Bill 1 and is looking for organizations across Alberta to endorse their analysis/ submission.

For more info, try this link from the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations(CCVO).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Strategic and Creative Use of SWOT Analysis"

SWOT analysis is a handy tool for strategic planning. Unfortunately like many folks, I can never remember the specific definitions of the words; "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats."

While trying to find a barely remembered website describing the specific definitions, I stumbled across this entry in Wikipedia describing the specific terms and suggesting how to create strategies from the descriptors.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Handi-Van Society enjoys provincial recognition

Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser, Wetaskiwin, AB: "Handi-Van Society enjoys provincial recognition"

A group of seniors were recognized for their continued hard work in advancing transportation for both seniors and persons with developmental disabilities in Wetaskiwin.

The Wetaskiwin Handi-Van Society has worked tirelessly for years making sure people who would not otherwise be able to get around have transportation.

The society raised funds not only to keep existing buses on the road, but to get new buses to replace older, worn out vehicles.

In the past year, through generous community donations, the society bought an $80,000 bus to update their fleet.

“The community was very good. We had a lot of help from them,” said Handi-Van Society treasurer Peg Emmett.

Donations poured in from different groups such as the Elks, the Seniors Games legacy fund, memorial donations, Safeway’s 2005-06 Because We Care campaign, the Lions and even CIHS radio.

The society has also purchased a $52,000 club van which will hold eight passengers and is complete with a wheelchair lift and raised roof. It has not yet been delivered.

(see original artlce for more text)

Wetaskiwin Handi Van Society

Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser, Wetaskiwin, AB

Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing to take on handivan busing
“The Wetaskiwin Handi-Van Society made a formal request for Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing to take over management and day-to-day operations of the service.” ~Kathy Wood, Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing executive director

Monday, June 25, 2007

Changes in Wetaskiwin, AB

Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser, Wetaskiwin, AB: "Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing to take on handivan busing
“The Wetaskiwin Handi-Van Society made a formal request for Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing to take over management and day-to-day operations of the service.” ~Kathy Wood, Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing executive director "

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Organizations make commitment to handibus service

Airdrie Echo, Airdrie, AB: "Organizations make commitment to handibus service"

Wednesday June 06, 2007

Rocky View Handibus — Fundraising for new vehicles became a little easier at Rocky View Regional Handibus, when two Calgary service clubs committed a total of $30,000 to the campaign. The Rotary Club of Calgary Olympic and the Associated Commercial Travellers both contributed to a previous campaign in 2005. Their donations, plus a donation from EnCana, means Rocky View Handibus has achieved about 20 per cent of its $240,000 goal.

"It is wonderful to have old friends back on board. Donations have been a little slow this winter. I’m learning that a capital campaign is a full-time task in addition to being manager and spare driver," Rocky View Handibus manager Paul Siller said. "It hasn’t helped that we have been working without a spare vehicle since December. Life around here is stressful when we have nothing available to cover a vehicle breakdown."

Fundraising for vehicles started in fall 2006, with a goal of two new vehicles. In December, a minor traffic collision from an uninsured driver wrote off one of the vehicles. A new goal of three buses was set. More than 50 proposals have been sent and more effort is forthcoming.

Operating just outside the Calgary city limits, Rocky View Regional Handibus provides a weekday service in an area that is three times the size of Calgary. Eight buses provide trips for education, medical appointments and even groceries. With a big region to cover, it can be difficult to accommodate many of the trips with a limited number of buses. Newcomers to the region who once relied on Calgary’s Handibus receive a big surprise when they find out just how limited the service is.

"People ask us about weekend and evening service ... we have trouble paying the bills for a weekday service," Siller said. "Last year, less than 20 per cent of our funding came from government sources."

Despite no direct provincial assistance, the organization is receiving more help from the communities with which it works. Crossfield and Rocky View have found a bit more cash for operating funds and Chestermere is willing to support a 12-month pilot project as soon as a bus can be put on the road.

"Just when we get more support, we start losing buses to attrition," Siller said. "It must also be frustrating to municipalities. They have to provide the local transportation services for provincial home-based care programs. The municipality supports us financially, while the province reaps the savings."

Service clubs mobilize for Rocky View handibus

More Headlines, June 5, 2007 - Rocky View Weekly Newspaper - The official newspaper for the Municipal District of Rocky View.: "Service clubs mobilize for Rocky View handibus"

On a cold winter day, a Crossfield truck driver spotted a woman walking on the roadside. She was attempting to walk nine miles in minus 20 C to an appointment in Airdrie.

The driver picked up the woman and took her to trucking company office and then called the Rocky View Regional Handibus for assistance.

"We picked her up at the trucking company office and later took her to four other visits," says Paul Siller, transportation manager of the Rocky View Regional Handibus.

With an eight-bus fleet, the non-profit, Airdrie-based society strives to provide transportation services in a large part of the M.D. of Rocky View and neighbouring communities, an area over three times larger than the City of Calgary.

"With a big region to cover, it can be difficult to accommodate many of the trips with a limited number of buses," said Siller.

Rural residents who cannot drive because of their age, disabilities or other factors, rely on the society for trips to medical appointments, education or even groceries.

"Many families depend on us when their aged parent cannot transfer into the family vehicle," Siller said. "People ask us about weekend and evening service, but we have trouble paying the bills for a weekday service."

As bed shortages in Calgary's health care places increase reliance on "care in the home" programs, growing numbers of rural residents are sent home earlier but later need to make trips for physiotherapy sessions, laboratory work or day hospital treatment.

And while the province achieves savings by discharging patients earlier and referring them to home-based care programs, it provides no funding for the handibus, which transports many of those patients to follow-up treatment or check-up appointments.

"Overall, we provided over 13,000 trips in 2006," said Siller, "which is a number greater than the Fort McMurray handibus service."

Local governments such as Crossfield and Rocky View have stepped up their funding to the society, and Chestermere is willing to support an upcoming 12-month pilot project, said Siller.

Siller acknowledges that constant requests must be frustrating to municipalities, which are asked to provide support for a service considered to be of provincial responsibility. Yet, the handibus society receives less than 20 per cent of its funding from government sources. To make up for the remainder, the handibus society must be in a permanent fundraising mode, knocking on the doors of local organizations and corporations.

Meanwhile, demand for transportation is constantly increasing.

"Newcomers who once relied on city handibus services receive a surprise when they find out how limited a service we have," Siller said.

Low-income residents use the handibus for local needs such as a food bank hamper, medical appointments, lab tests, mental health counselling or when leaving a domestic crisis. The society also considers the therapeutic effects of those who just need to break their isolation by taking a shopping trip or attending a social event.

As a red-hot economy roars across the province, Calgary residents with disabilities hit by higher fees in the Calgary rental market move to neighbouring communities such as Chestermere and Langdon. After an accident wrecked one of its buses, the society has been operating with one less vehicle.

"Life around here is stressful when we have nothing available for a vehicle breakdown," said Siller.

In a bid to acquire three new buses, the handibus society has launched a fundraising campaign, which recently picked up speed with the help of two Calgary service clubs that had contributed in previous years.

"It is wonderful to have old friends back on board," said Siller, who also wears the hat of campaign manager and spare driver.

The Rotary Club of Calgary Olympic and the Associated Commercial Travellers have committed a total of $30,000 to the campaign. Their donations, plus a donation from EnCana Corporation, has allowed Rocky View Regional Handibus to reach $50,000, or 20 per cent of its $240,000 goal.

Editorial: A driving need for transportation

High River Times, High River, AB

A driving need for transportation

Tuesday June 05, 2007

A plan to look into transportation for medical appointment or social outings could be good news for local seniors.

After hearing there is a need in the community for seniors transportation for medical appointments at its May 28 meeting, town council recommended administration develop a program for its approval in September.

The real question is what level of services should be made available. Two options are up for investigation: one for transportation for medical appointments only and a second possibility that would include trips for social reasons in response to concerns over isolation.

At a minimum, a transportation program should cover medical purposes.
Given current options available, a trip to the city for a medical appointment can be difficult and pricey for some seniors.

Taking a taxi can cost over $100. The High River Handibus costs less at $25 per hour – but, this still adds up depending on how long the trip takes. The Greyhound bus is cheaper, but a person has to make their way from the station downtown to the location of their appointment.

The other remaining option is to rely on family, friends or the kindness of an FCSS volunteer driver.

While these options may work for some, there will be others who’ll find themselves with a medical appointment in the city and no way to get there. A program that addresses this necessity could make a big difference in the lives of those who need it the most.

Ultimately, the necessity of transportation services will only get larger as the Town continues to grow. And, at some point this may go beyond the needs of seniors.
For now, a program that helps meet seniors’ transportation needs could go a long way to improving the lives of many residents in town.

High River Times, High River, AB

High River Times, High River, AB: "More to consider on seniors' transport"

Isabel Anderson, High River
Tuesday June 12, 2007

I was very pleased to see that Council is open to considering the much-needed subsidization for medical and dental appointments to Calgary, but nowhere was there mention of Okotoks. With its medical, dental and diagnostic clinics, it is sure to be a popular and accessible destination and much easier on the budget, providing the required treatment can be obtained there. I believe it deserves consideration.
Also, the Handibus, at this time, charges $9 for a return trip locally. This also needs subsidization and if a means test is necessary, so be it.

The new plan to keep seniors in their homes while helping them with shopping, yard work, etc., appears excellent. I would hope that local industry and service clubs would come forward to help with funding of this initial project. Their help could ensure more immediate funding and also help Council with future budgeting.

Again, I am thankful that Council is addressing this very dire issue, but it will not be complete without the Okotoks and local transportation fee adjustments.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More Headlines, May 29, 2007 - Rocky View Weekly Newspaper - The official newspaper for the Municipal District of Rocky View.

Cochrane transportation society receives award nomination


A group of volunteers who have been providing affordable transportation in Cochrane and area to senior citizens and persons with disabilities has been nominated for a provincial award.

"I commend these individuals and organizations for their initiative in assisting the seniors in their communities," said Greg Melchin, Minister of Alberta Seniors and Community Supports.

Run by a handful of volunteer senior citizens, partially supported by local organizations and donations from individuals and businesses, the Big Hill Senior Citizen's Activities Society transports residents in Cochrane, Bearspaw, Springbank and other areas in northwest M.D. of Rocky View to medical and recreational facilities in Calgary.

The Minister's Seniors Service Awards recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations who improve the quality of life of seniors through their services.

another exerpt:
The group faces increasing challenges presented by increasing numbers of aging baby boomers.

"Starting last summer we had to turn down trips because we did not have enough vehicles," said Orville Lammle, the society's director of busing. "Our focus right now is to get another vehicle and to overcome our mounting expenses."

Wills said provincial help could go a long way to help the group.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

High River Times, High River, AB

High River Times, High River, AB
"While high fuel and maintenance costs are among a number of challenges cited as facing the High River Handi-Bus Association, town council heard they aren’t insurmountable.

Association president Joel Fossen said costs and attracting drivers and board members have been challenges, during council’s May 14 meeting.

“We’re able to work around them,” he said. “It won’t be a crisis if we can’t.”
“[This is] not a sympathy trip.”

Friday, April 27, 2007

Charities and Albertans benefit from increased tax credit

Charities and Albertans benefit from increased tax credit

First step in encouraging increases in private donations to Alberta charities

Edmonton... Albertans making total annual donations over $200 to charitable organizations will now receive a 50-cent provincial/federal tax credit for every dollar donated over the $200 threshold. This is due to a more than 60-per-cent increase in Alberta's tax credit rate.

Alberta's portion of the tax credit for annual charitable donations over $200 is being increased from 12.75 per cent to 21 per cent. With this enhancement, Albertans will receive $500 back in total federal and provincial tax credits per $1,000 in total donations over the $200 threshold. The first $200 in annual donations will continue to be eligible for the existing 10 per cent tax credit.

"Albertans are proud supporters of their communities," said Hector Goudreau, Minister of Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture. "This increased tax credit recognizes the good work of charitable groups, and will benefit charities and Albertans in a real and tangible way."

The tax credit enhancement, announced as part of Budget 2007, will complement the work of an MLA committee examining ways to increase private charitable donations. The committee will recommend how to establish a Community Spirit Fund to provide matching provincial grants for eligible philanthropic donations to Alberta-based registered charities.

Chaired by Gordon Graydon, MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti, the committee will consult with Albertans and stakeholders on the parameters of the program. They will also examine what is being done in other jurisdictions before making recommendations and submitting their final report to the Minister of Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture this fall. For more information visit

The enhanced tax credit will be limited to donations made on or after January 1, 2007. Individuals cannot carry forward past years' donations to 2007 to benefit from the enhancement. Any past donations carried forward will continue to be subject to the previous credit rate. Based on 2004 statistics, Albertans donate over $1 billion a year to charitable or nonprofit organizations.

Supporting community groups and developing a Community Spirit Program are key actions under Premier Ed Stelmach's plan to improve Albertans' quality of life. Other priorities for the government are to govern with integrity and transparency, build a stronger Alberta, manage growth pressures and provide safe and secure communities.

Ray Howden and flowers

( A letter to a local paper)

In 1998, a local fellow named Ray Howden donated a handibus to our organization. We have used that bus to provide several thousand trips for people in the community.

Ray passed away recently. His obiturary mentioned that in lieu of flowers, donations could be sent to ourselves and the Pioneer Acres Association.

I was thrilled. Our board of directors was thrilled. We considered that being identified for donations in the obituary was an honor. We wanted to express our gratitude to Ray's family.

But Ray died a bachelor and none of us had ever met any of his extended family.

Without thinking, I suggested, "We should send some flowers." Folks reminded me of the obituary stating, "in lieu of flowers...."

So, in lieu of flowers, we posted a few words of thanks and put a recent picture of the "Howden bus" on our website. But it doesn't seem to be quite enough to recognize Ray's generousity.

So dear reader, on behalf of the many, many people who have benefited from Ray's generosity, we ask a small favour. When you see his bus go by, or drive out to Pioneer Acres, perhaps you could help us properly thank this community-minded fellow.

Just take a brief moment to help us say, "thank-you Ray."

Paul Siller Rocky View Regional Handibus

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Strathmore:Handi-bus needs helping hands to assist behind the wheel

Strathmore Standard, Strathmore, AB March 15, 2007

Strathmore Handi-bus needs qualified helping hands Town councillor Theo Owel noted at the March 7 council meeting.

Owel reported that WFCSS, which had taken over the dispatch service for the Handi-bus, had been quite effective.

He said that when WFCSS first took over the dispatch service there had been a shortage of qualified drivers, however that problem improved for awhile.

“It’s gotten back to the point where there’s a shortage of drivers,” Owel said of the current situation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Community Spirit Program

Alberta's Community Spirit Program has been announced...

Or rather the initial discussions are about to take place..

(Can't get anymore tentative than that)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

New policy: Alberta's Parking Placards for Persons with Disabilities

Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation : pol291.htm:
(go to this website for further information and forms)

"Alberta's Parking Placards for Persons with Disabilities "

Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation and Alberta Government Services worked, in consultation with stakeholders, to develop the new parking placards policy effective November 1, 2001. This policy was updated with a small number of revisions implemented January 16, 2007. The revisions included allowing placard holders who have permanent disabilities to renew their placards through self-declaration, designating for-profit organizations in the business of providing transportation services to persons with disabilities eligible to receive parking placards, and placing a six-month time limit for submission of approved application forms to registry agents.

The parking placards policy's fundamental principle is the right of all people to have access to the community. For some individuals designated parking is the only way to gain this access.

The policy is intended to ensure individuals having the greatest needs can find the parking stalls they require.

Please note that ALL physicians, occupational therapists and physiotherapists MUST use the new application form as of January 16, 2007. Old application forms approved after January 15, 2007 may not be accepted by Registry Agents.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

letter to Cochrane Times, Cochrane, AB

Cochrane Times, Cochrane, AB:
"Handy helpers help handibus

Rocky View Regional Handibus picks up special needs students in the Beaupre region for programs in Calgary.

During the snowfall of March 13, our handibus became stuck on the side of the forestry trunk road just after turning northbound from Highway 1A.

Two gentlemen their way to Waiparous got out and pushed our driver out of her predicament.

Then with the assistance of a third bystander, they pushed her out again when she became stuck on the other side of the road.

We greatly appreciate the assistance of these gentlemen who faced snow, wind and gravel sprayed from the passing snowplow to lending us a hand. Thank-you for all your help."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


It's AGM time. Time to answer the auditor's questions and write the Annual report.

We decided to re-cycle a paragraph from the 2005 report describing a collaboration with the Cochrane Handibus.

"We'd like to recount one of our favorite collaboration stories. In June 2005, Cochrane's bus was unable to help a lady attend the high school convocation of her two daughters at the Calgary Convention Centre. The passenger required a wheelchair as a result of her long battle with cancer. A phone call from Cochrane Handibus, a little scheduling manipulation and some fortunate timing and we were able to get mom to the ceremony and home again. We were saddened to hear that she succumbed to cancer a few days after seeing her twin daughters receive their diplomas."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Friday, January 26, 2007

More Headlines, January 23, 2007 - Rocky View Weekly Newspaper - The official newspaper for the Municipal District of Rocky View.

January 23, 2007 - Rocky View Weekly Newspaper - The official newspaper for the Municipal District of Rocky View.

Handibus society steps up fundraising effort

Enrique Massot

After a collision sent one of its vehicles to the junkyard, a non-profit society providing mobility to residents in the M.D. of Rocky View and neighbouring communities has stepped up its annual fundraising campaign goals.

"Our capital campaign has been revised, seeking to put three new buses on the road this year," said Paul Siller, transportation manager for the Rocky View Handibus Society.
In an early December collision, one of the society's eight buses was rear-ended and damaged beyond repair.

"No one was hurt, but the insurance company determined that it would cover about five per cent of the replacement cost," said Siller. The loss prompted the society to step up its fundraising efforts at $240,000 under the Three to Get Ready 2007 campaign, enough to purchase three buses instead of two.
The handibus society has been facing increased demands for special transportation serving Crossfield, northeast Rocky View, Balzac, Sharp Hill, Butte Hill, Beiseker and Irricana. Airdrie residents can obtain transportation on a referral basis.

As a result, Siller's duties have included knocking on prospective donors' doors.

"In the last 10 days I put 24 letters together circulating our proposal, and I have another 20 to do before the end of the month."

EnCana, the society's anchor donor for the 2007 campaign, was the first to step up with a $20,000 contribution in November 2006, and has supported the new campaign goals.

"When we had to revise our project they were happy to approve our new goals," Siller said.

Siller says some reliable government funding would alleviate the uncertainty the society faces, reducing dependency on the goodwill of corporate and individual donors.

"It would be nice if we had some core funding, with communities supporting and enhancing the service, similar to the STARS air ambulance service," he said.

"STARS improve the level of services with community support while the government pays to keep the helicopter in the air."

In the early 1990s, the province would provide funding through municipalities to address special transportation needs in the communities. However, that funding dried up in 1994 in the midst of massive cutbacks, and was never reinstated.

Since then, those providing rural special needs transportation have been struggling to keep the service up and running, while facing increased wages, fuel, insurance and repair costs.

On the other hand, provincial initiatives emphasizing a community-based approach to services such as health care, children's services, education and senior care have resulted in a sharp increase in transportation needs.

"Access to many of these services often depends on a wheelchair-accessible vehicle being available in the community," said Siller.

The trend towards early patient discharge allows for savings in hospital budget, as a bed costs $1,600 a night.

"If someone can get out a week early, the system saves over $10,000 in costs," Siller said. "And that amount allows us to pay a driver and run a bus for two months."

The Foothills Hospital wants to discharge an Irricana resident who survived a stroke, but the patient will need to commute several times a week for treatment.

Such long trips put additional pressure on the limited vehicle capacity of the society.

"They say, 'we can't afford to keep them in hospital,'" said Siller. "And we say 'we can't afford to run them on the bus.'"

While Siller estimates that handibus groups play a unique role, by allowing rural passengers to participate in provincial "care in the home" programs allowing the province to save an estimated $500,000 a year, special transportation has struggles to provide services without direct provincial funding.

While the Rocky View Handibus Society fundraises about $35,000 per year and uses most of it for vehicle repair, funding from municipalities is less than 10 per cent of its operating budget. However, not all jurisdictions act in the same way. Rural handibus transportation is pampered by comparison.

The Province of British Columbia funds a third of rural handibus transportation, while the municipalities provide another third, with the remaining third being paid by the passengers.

"The government of B.C. has a commitment to make transportation available and helps communities to get started," said Siller. "In Alberta, it has not been a priority so far."

Most Rocky View Handibus passengers pay 25 per cent of the total costs of the service.

"The mystery is where the other 75 per cent comes from," Siller said. "Right now we are fundraising to pay for that."

Because of long rural routes, the society's buses age fast under the impact of travelling 36,000 miles per year.

"A trip into town for groceries or an appointment can be 40 km for a one-way trip," said Siller.
Although he hopes that a new provincial government will take a close look at the current situation, Siller said, "we have not heard yet from the new premier for anything that would help us".

For information on the Rocky View Handibus Society call Paul Siller at 948-2887 or log on to

Friday, January 19, 2007

Delivery of handi-bus service to change

Delivery of handi-bus service to change

e Lethbridge Handi-Bus Association could be out of a job by the summer.

The city has decided to tender transportation service’s for the city’s disabled. That means the association will compete against other providers to see who can provide the best service and not necessarily for the least amount of money.“We’re not going to make a decision on dollars alone,” Mayor Bob Tarleck said Tuesday.

The city has issued a request for proposals for the planning, design and operation of handi-bus service for the community. The Lethbridge Handi-Bus Association, a not-for-profit group, has provided the service for about 32 years but Tarleck said transportation service for the disabled has grown too large and expensive to continue offering it to only one organization.

“This is not a slight of the handi-bus,” Tarleck said, adding the organization has offered great service over the years.

When the LHBA began operating, it was run by volunteers on a grant of about $35,000 a year, Tarleck said. As the program expanded, it also grew more expensive and the city would simply hand over annual provincial grants worth about $235,000. Now the service, with a budget nearly five times that amount, is financed by municipal taxes.Murray Campbell, executive director of the LHBA, said he understands the city’s reasons for tendering the contract and confirmed the association will submit a bid.

(See original article for more)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Off the Road

January 2007
Off the Road

In early December, bus #1 was rear-ended. No one was hurt but our insurance company has determined the bus was a write-off.
Bus #1, a 1996 GMC rally van, was bought second-hand (slightly used) in 1998 and modified to accomodate wheelchairs. With 10 years of age and over 430,000 km on the vehicle, the damage to the back doors and frame is not economic to repair. Unfortunately, the insurance value on this bus is only about 5% of the cost of a replacement.

Our "Two More For The Road-2007" capital campaign is now renamed the "Three to Get Ready-2007" campaign. The revised budget now sets a goal of $240,000 to put three new buses on the road this year. We'll be sending out some 40 funding proposals this month with the revised campaign goal. We intend to acquire the first bus as soon as funds permit.

See the revised bus proposal here: (NB:available January 5)

This is a significant fund-raising challenge for us, we certainly could use some help. If you have fund-raising suggestions or recommendations, call Paul Siller (948-2887) or drop a line to: