BC Ferries will now be eligible for a financial bailout from Victoria and Ottawa after suffering significant losses due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but there is no new money from either level of government.
Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena announced BC Ferries is now eligible for the same dollar-matching assistance that BC Transit, TransLink and municipalities are eligible for.
The financial support for Ferries will need to allocated from the money already earmarked for B.C.’s portion of the federal government’s restart plan. There has been $540 million from both levesl of government, for a total of $1.08 billion, earmarked to cover off TransLink, BC Transit and now BC Ferries.
It will be up to the provincial government to decide how to apply a portion of the federal funding to BC Ferries, along with its own matched funding commitment.
“The provincial government is working with BC Ferries to fully understand it’s operational challenges related to COVID-19,” Trevena said.
“As we work towards finding solutions I except BC Ferries will emphasis its focus on assuring the public interest is a priority. That means restoring service to pre-COVID levels, keeping fares affordable and contributing to the safe restart of our economy.”
A working group has been established to work through relief proposal so the province has the details needed to decide how much money is needed. The group will include both the province and BC Ferries.
BC Ferries has lost $130 million in expected revenue since the pandemic started in March.
The federal government put in restrictions around travel including a reduction in both sailings and capacity. There has also been a substantial drop off in travel due to overall pandemic restrictions.
BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins says his company is ‘pleased’ they are now eligible for the funding.
Recently BC Ferries has has maintained ferry system capacity approximately 20 per cent higher than demand to ensure access for essential goods, workers, travellers and residents, and will continue to do so.
There has been no exposures of COVID-19 on BC Ferries reported by public health.
“Confirmation of BC Ferries’ eligibility under the Safe Restart Agreement is welcome news not only for our customers, but also for our employees who come to work each day in the face of the pandemic, knowing how important it is to keep essential goods, services and people moving to coastal communities,” Collins said.
Premier John Horgan has been lobbying Ottawa to include BC Ferries with the support payments. So far, both Ottawa and Victoria have set aside $1.2 billion in matching funds for transit aid.
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