BC Ferries eligible for Safe Restart funding

THE federal and provincial governments on Tuesday confirmed that the transit funding envelope of the Safe Restart Agreement will include eligibility for BC Ferries.

Helping communities recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is a key part of the Safe Restart Agreement. The agreement was announced on July 16, 2020, by the federal government.

“British Columbians from all corners of the province rely on BC Ferries for safe transit to get to work, visit loved ones and explore B.C.,” said Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. “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.”

The provincial government’s decision on how to apply a portion of the federal funding for BC Ferries, along with its own matched funding commitment, will be based on considerations that put the public’s interest first. This includes ensuring fares remain affordable through the pandemic recovery and essential ferry service is maintained, so the public can continue to access appropriate, safe and reliable transportation to and from coastal communities.

“Ensuring BC Ferries’ eligibility for Safe Restart funding reflects our shared values on the importance of our transit and ferry systems to the health of B.C. communities,” said Claire Trevena, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “This is another example of the positive relationship we have with the federal government. By working together in response to the impacts of COVID-19, we can ensure essential transportation is available to support a safe restart of the B.C. economy.”

The provincial government is working closely with BC Ferries and other transportation agencies, such as TransLink and BC Transit, to fully understand the operational and financial challenges resulting from the pandemic before determining what level of relief may be considered. This includes any plans to safely return to pre COVID-19 service levels.

A task force with representation from the provincial government, the BC Ferry Authority board and BC Ferries Services Inc. board is working to ensure that when BC Ferries is ready to bring forward a comprehensive relief proposal to the Province, all necessary information is made available to support the government’s decision.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be an unprecedented challenge for our province, including our essential transportation agencies,” Trevena said. “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 Province has earmarked up to $1 billion of additional provincial spending targeted to addressing COVID-19 impacts and restart plans of local governments and public transportation services. This funding is conditional on matching federal contributions, with 50-50 cost sharing under Canada’s Safe Restart Agreement.