BC Ferries. (Nicole Crescenzi/Black Press Staff)

Feds offer ‘life preserver’ funds to BC Ferries as pandemic sinks revenue

For every dollar the province spends the federal government will match

BC Ferries will be eligible for bailout funding from the federal and provincial governments with the aim of getting service back to pre-pandemic levels.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena and federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced the new matching agreement Tuesday (Aug. 11).

Under the agreement, the federal government will match every dollar the province spends. The same agreement has been signed between B.C. and Ottawa for TransLink and BC Transit operations, as part of $1.2 billion set aside by the feds for transit aid.

According to reports, BC Ferries has lost an estimated $130 million in revenue since COVID-19 forced lockdowns across the province.

The new funding comes after the ferry service was initially turned down for financial aid.

ALSO READ: BC Ferries’ COVID-related financial woes compounded by lack of transit bailout funding

In June, the province and ferries came to a funding agreement to prevent cuts to coastal routes. Since then, ferry sailings have increased as part of B.C.’s economic restart plan.

A task force with representatives from the provincial government, BC Ferry Authority and BC Ferries Service Inc. board will bring forward a plan for BC Ferries to build out of the pandemic.

Trevena told reporters during Tuesday’s press conference it would not be in the public’s interest to raise fares on the ferries, adding that ferry service levels would be kept as high as possible.

“It’s entirely appropriate in a province like British Columbia that we are thinking about the transit needs of all communities, not simply those folks who live in large cities,” added Wilkinson. “And that is fundamentally why BC Ferries was included.”

ALSO READ: BC Ferries passengers travelling for medical reasons to get priority boarding

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