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christmas surprise

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The company that operates Vancouver's transit buses says Santa can keep his day job.

Earlier this week, the Coast Mountain Bus Company told bus driver Kirk Rockwell it was time to hang up the Santa suit he's been wearing behind the wheel every December for many years.

The company said it was worried passengers wouldn't be able to identify the driver, as the driver, and suggested he don a Santa hat or a festive tie instead of the jolly old elf suit.

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But riders said "Bah, Humbug" to the bus company and blasted Coast Mountain for the Grinch-like move.

"Due to overwhelming customer response and customer, I guess, concern, we changed our decision to allow the operator to wear his Santa suit while on duty," said Stan Sierpina, vice-president of operations for the bus company.

"We really, really underestimated how much our customers valued his holiday spirit, and it was certainly never our intent to offend the public, so we thought because of that feedback...the right thing to do was to change it, so we did change it, and the operator's been advised accordingly."

Sierpina said the company implemented the policy last year because it wanted to ensure fairness and consistency for its 6,000 employees, 3,300 of whom are bus drivers and support many different causes and celebrations.

He said the company will now review the policy.

Despite the incident, Sierpina indicated the company has acted like anything but a Scrooge over the past 28 years, donating more than 58,000 toys to the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau.

He said the company also operates a bus and shuttle bus that sport red noses and antlers, and during promotional service, they take Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves to Ronald McDonald House and Canuck Place to spread Christmas cheer.

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"So we do support Christmas," he said with a chuckle.

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