The B.C. government has announced a $27-million program to bail out inter-city bus operators and regional airports.
It comes as the industry has been hard hit by the pandemic and has been calling for funding.
The government says Tuesday’s cash injection should help airports and bus companies survive until next winter.
“I want to thank those companies for staying in place and I’m hopeful that this contribution today will them get through the next number of months,” said Premier John Horgan.
The Wilson’s Group provides bus service across Vancouver Island. The company has been calling for an aid package since it suspended its routes last year. Nearly $11 million of the funding has been earmarked for inter-city bus operators.
“Today’s grant announcement is the life raft many of us in our industry have been hoping for,” said John Wilson, CEO and President of Wilson’s group.
Wilson says the funding will allow the company to start running its buses much sooner than it would be able to otherwise.
“We’re hoping by April 1, which is exciting news for communities on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland,” said Wilson
The head of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Judith Sayers, says she’s glad to see the provincial aid.
“It really is an essential service to the 22 First Nation communities that Wilson bus lines provide,” said Sayers.
Nanaimo Airport is among the airports hard-hit by the pandemic.
“Our passenger counts went down 96 per cent in April of 2020 and we’ve been operating in the red the entire time,” said Dave Devana, President and CEO of the Nanaimo Airport Commission.
Devana says he can’t wait for air traffic restrictions to be relaxed.
“But it’s more likely in the fall where we’re going to see that kind of relief so this kind of funding is crucial to keep us from going into debt.”
Devana says he’s hoping federal aid for air carriers might be coming next.
Wilson’s Group, owner of the Tofino Bus and the Vancouver Island Connector operations, stated in February that the service was at risk of shutting down permanently because of the ongoing pandemic.