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BC Ferries to get $308 million in federal-provincial funding

Rural transit systems also in line for safe restart money
BC Ferries

Federal and provincial cabinet ministers have announced more details about how the money from the Safe Restart agreement will be used to support transit systems and BC Ferries.

The joint funding totals $1.08 billion, with the province and the federal government each contributing $540 million.

The bulk of the funding, $644 million, will go to the Translink system serving Metro Vancouver and much of the Lower Mainland.

BC Transit, which works with local governments to provide bus service in rural areas of the province, including the Sunshine Coast, will get $86 million.

BC Ferries will receive $308 million.

“This significant one-time funding will cover the operational losses that happened to date, and the losses we project through the current and next fiscal years,” B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said during Friday’s funding announcement.

“It will ensure service levels for transit and ferries are maintained across the province, and that fares remain affordable,” she said.

“The province will formalize the Safe Restart funding relief through contribution agreements with each transportation agency.”

BC Ferries president Mark Collins said the ferry company has already submitted a detailed plan to the government that will “meet the public interest and the interests of customers in the provision of safe, reliable and affordable ferry service.”

He said BC Ferries looks forward to working out the formal agreement with the province, “so we can maximize the benefit of the Safe Restart Funding Program for ferry users, and help restart the B.C. economy.”

BC Ferries has just wrapped up an online engagement to be followed by meetings with a 20-person working group to develop “a practical list of solutions that can be implemented in the near term, including potential changes to operational procedures, schedules, reservation policies and communications” to improve service to the Sunshine Coast.

Asked by Coast Reporter whether the Safe Restart funding would assure BC Ferries is able to implement any recommendations the working group puts forward, Trevena said the money is specifically to help BC Ferries and the transit agencies deal with the impacts of COVID.

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was asked whether the federal government was considering Premier John Horgan’s request to pull back from plans to reinstate the Transport Canada rules against passengers staying on the lower car decks on many BC Ferries routes.

“When a premier makes a request, of course we look at that request,” Wilkinson said.

However, he added: “At the beginning of the pandemic we didn’t really understand a lot about the virus, so there was a decision taken to allow people to remain within their cars. We now know a lot more about the virus [and] about the protocols that need to be put into place to keep people safe, including the requirement to make people wear masks on BC Ferries.

“There is a risk for people to actually remain in their cars in a ferry or other boat and at this stage the federal government’s view is that risk is higher than requiring people not to be in their cars.”

The Langdale-Horseshoe Bay route will be exempt from the rules when they go back into force Oct. 1, but they will apply to routes such as Powell River-Comox and Horshoe Bay-Nanaimo.

Hear more from the announcment on this week's Coast Reporter Radio: