BC Ferries to get federal bailout funding
VICTORIA -- The federal government and the province have promised to provide funding for BC Ferries through the recently announced Canada Safe Restart Agreement.
The Canada Safe Restart Agreement is a massive cost-sharing relief package that is intended to help local governments and public transportation services restart across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The B.C. government has reserved up to $1 billion for the agreement, which will be matched by the federal government.
The exact amount of funding that BC Ferries will be receiving from the federal and provincial governments has not been finalized yet, but the B.C. government says that it is working closely with BC Ferries and other public transportation services – like BC Transit and TransLink – to determine what financial support each organization may need.
“British Columbians from all corners of the province rely on BC Ferries for safe transit to get to work, to visit loved ones, and to explore B.C.” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, in a statement Tuesday.
“The Safe Restart Agreement, a partnership between the federal government and the government of B.C., will ensure BC Ferries continues to provide these essential services,” he said.
A comprehensive relief proposal for BC Ferries is being created by a task force that includes BC Ferries representatives and provincial government members.
B.C. Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena says that she expects the relief proposal to prioritize several aspects of the ferry service, such as keeping fares affordable and increasing the number of sailings available.
Earlier this month, BC Ferries president and CEO Mark Collins said that daily revenue for the company was down approximately $700,000 compared to the same time last year.
Currently, BC Ferries ridership is at about 80 per cent when compared to summer 2019. At the height of COVID-19 lockdowns in B.C., ferry ridership dropped to just 15 to 20 per cent of usual levels in mid-April.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be an unprecedented challenge for our province, including our essential transportation agencies,” said Trevena.
“As we work towards a funding relief decision, I expect BC Ferries to focus its attention on priority areas of public interest, including restoring service levels, keeping fares affordable and delivering a safe and responsible restart from the pandemic.”