12/13/2017 12:57 EST | Updated 12/15/2017 14:42 EST

Saskatchewan government sells bus company assets to Hilco Industrial

REGINA — The Saskatchewan government has sold the assets of its bus company for an estimated $29 million.

Joe Hargrave, the minister who was responsible for the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, says the entire fleet and most of the depots have been sold to Hilco Industrial Acquisitions Canada.

Hargrave says 400 companies expressed interest, although not all made bids on what he called an open and fair playing field.

The government shut down the 70-year-old bus service to help tackle a $1.3-billion provincial deficit last year.

The bus company reported a net loss of $13 million in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Premier Brad Wall said at the time the per passenger subsidy for the Crown bus company was reaching $100 for every person in the province.

He also said the $100 million the government would have spent over five years to subsidize the service was needed to improve highways, health and education.

"People can rest assured that we got best value for the assets," Hargrave said Wednesday.

"It was a good process, an open and transparent process. There were a number of people who submitted bids on it."

NDP MLA Doyle Vermette said the government needs to give details about how much the shutdown and sell-off is costing taxpayers.

"From the beginning, we've been asking for the details and calling for the transparency that the Sask. Party promises but they've proven they can't be trusted to come clean with Saskatchewan people," Vermette said in news release.

"If they won't voluntarily tell us the facts, we need the provincial auditor to step in and do a full-value audit of STC."

(CKRM, The Canadian Press)