12/11/2013 11:12 EST | Updated 02/10/2014 05:59 EST

Santa suit stirs trouble with bus driver's bosses

In a move some say is taking the spirit out of the holiday season, TransLink has ordered a Coast Mountain bus driver who has dressed up as Santa Claus for over a decade to hang up his red velvet suit.

For the past 16 years, Kirk Rockwell has been dressing up on the job as Santa Claus for the holidays — a habit he says is popular with customers.

"I average, since the beginning of December, 65 photographs a day where people want to take pictures, or want pictures with me," he told CBC News.

In November, Rockwell went to a Coast Mountain Bus Company supervisor and got the annual permission he needs to don the suit when he's behind the wheel. But a day into the season, he got a letter rescinding permission, telling him there would be no Santa suits on the buses.

And last week, Rockwell said his supervisor asked him to return to his uniform — something he's never encountered.

"I've never had a problem. This is the first time in 16 years," he said.

TransLink's Derek Zabel said a policy change a year ago banned costumes of all kinds, as drivers must be identifiable in case of emergency situations.

"There's a lot of good reasons why we want them to wear their uniform," Zabel said. "The policy is there, and unfortunately it won't allow them to wear the full Santa outfit."

Rockwell said he won't stop spreading the holiday cheer, despite the threat of a reprimand.

"I've worn my suit, I continue to wear my suit. Unfortunately, I feel they're wrong in their attitude toward this," he said.

TransLink said it will stand by its policy.