BC Ferries to receive government bailout to help with lost revenue

WatchBC Ferries will now be eligible for the billion-dollar bailout fund for public transportation authorities but as Tess van Straaten tells us, the money comes with some conditions.

BC Ferries is being thrown a life preserver from both the federal and provincial governments in order to help with financial losses experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a live press conference held by the BC Government on Tuesday, it was revealed that the ferry company will be eligible for finances through the transit funding envelope of the Safe Restart Agreement.

The Safe Restart Agreement announced on July 16 is a $19 billion agreement between the federal government and the provinces across Canada in order to help fund projects and bail out communities in need.

The agreement is based on a 50-50 cost-sharing format, with the Province earmarking up to $1 billion of additional spending to address COVID-19 impacts – spending that will be matched by Trudeau’s Liberals.

The BC Government had already revealed plans to parcel some of this spending towards transit options in the province, including BC Transit and Translink. Now, the BC Ferries are being included in the government’s spending.

“British Columbians from all corners of the province rely on BC Ferries for safe transit to get to work, visit loved ones and explore B.C.,” said Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities in a statement. “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.”

The Province hasn’t finalized a dollar amount that the ferry service will receive, however, suggests it is making decisions on how to apply the funding based on “considerations that put the public’s interest first.”

According to the government, it is a priority to ensure fares remain affordable and that essential ferry service is maintained in order to keep coastal communities connected through reliable transportation.

“Ensuring BC Ferries’ eligibility for Safe Restart funding reflects our shared values on the importance of our transit and ferry systems to the health of B.C. communities,” said Claire Trevena, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “This is another example of the positive relationship we have with the federal government. By working together in response to the impacts of COVID-19, we can ensure essential transportation is available to support a safe restart of the B.C. economy.”

The government said it is working closely with transport authorities like the BC Ferries, TransLink and BC Transit in order to get a better understanding of their financial situations and how big an investment might be needed. This assessment includes any plans to safely return to pre-COVID-19 service levels.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be an unprecedented challenge for our province, including our essential transportation agencies,” Trevena said. “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.”

A task force made up of representatives from the provincial government, the BC Ferry Authority board and BC Ferries Services Inc. board has been assembled in order to help develop and assess any relief proposal put forward by the ferry company.

Graham CoxGraham Cox
Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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