VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – BC Ferries is in line for some federal and provincial cash to help it through lower traffic volumes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but how much is still unclear.
The B.C. and federal governments have confirmed the company is eligible for funding as part of the Safe Restart plan.
This comes after BC Ferries told Post Media it has lost $130 million in revenue since the pandemic started, and that it is in financial stormy waters, looking at increasing debt and deferring upgrades to terminals and ships just to keep operating.
“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,” Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, says.
How the federal funding will be administered to BC Ferries will be decided by the provincial government, which is also committing to match funding. The province will make its decision “based on considerations that put the public’s interest first,” a release reads.
The goal is to help keep fares consistent throughout recovery, as well as ensuring ferry service isn’t interrupted.
The province says it’s working closely with BC Ferries, as well as other transportation agencies, to understand their needs before funds are distributed.
“This includes any plans to safely return to pre COVID-19 service levels,” the province adds.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be an unprecedented challenge for our province, including our essential transportation agencies,” Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says. “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.”
The B.C. government has already set aside $1 billion to help public transit recover from revenue lost because of COVID-19. The funding, it notes, is “conditional on matching federal contributions.”