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.
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“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.