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BC Ferries needs longterm funding solution to survive, service advocate says

Last Updated Aug 11, 2020 at 10:44 am PST

FILE (Courtesy Twitter.BC Ferries)

Longtime ferry service advocate says longterm solutions needed to address BC Ferries problems

Jim Abram wants to see the BC Ferries system be treated as a marine highway, much like terrestrial systems

Abram says putting BC Ferries under the Ministry of Transportation would ensure appropriate funding

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – A longtime ferry service advocate says there needs to be a longterm solution to properly funding BC Ferries, which is struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jim Abram, a municipal politician from Quardra Island, suggests bringing the former B.C. Crown corporation back under the Ministry of Transportation and treating it as a marine highway system.

“If the highway to Fort St. John needs repair, it gets repaired. And who pays for it? All of us. If the Lions Gate Bridge needs repair, who pays for it? We all do. And nobody questions it,” he tells NEWS 1130. “So why do we all question BC Ferries’ marine highway on the salt water?”

BC Ferries has said the loss in revenue since the COVID-19 pandemic began has put it in financial stormy waters. The company is looking at more debt and putting off upgrades to terminals and ships just to keep operating, its CEO told the Vancouver Sun.

Related article: BC Ferries eligible for COVID-19 transit funding

“We are the marine highway. We provide about a third of the wealth of this province and the GDP of this province, and to ignore it by not funding it properly is just completely wrong,” Abram says. “I hope that the B.C. government and the federal government will get on with funding BC Ferries appropriately. Get the money out there where it needs to be in the operational end — that’s the fuel, the wages, the maintenance of the ships, those sorts of things.”

He says this isn’t about making the terminals flashy or about any other aesthetic upgrades, but rather about making sure the system is able to continue running.

Abram adds communities and political parties have been pushing for the BC Ferries system to be treated in the same way terrestrial highways have been for years.

“We are a marine highway, put us back into the highways ministry and fund us accordingly,” he says. “There would be none of this subsidy nonsense and all of these different things wrangling every year over how much you’re going to get, how much you’re going to put here, put there.”

Ottawa and Victoria announced on Tuesday that BC Ferries is eligible for funding under the federal and provincial governments’ COVID-19 recovery plans, however, how much money it will receive is still unclear.