Vancouver Island MP calls on Canada to provide emergency benefits to BC Ferries

Courtenay-Alberni’s Gord Johns says any pandemic-provoked cuts will hurt Islanders

Courtenay-Alberni MP/NDP Critic for Tourism Gord Johns is calling on the Liberal government to amend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to allow BC Ferries to apply for benefits.

In a July 28 letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Johns says the ferries “are a critical component of the social and economic life of coastal communities.” Without access to federal support, he says that BC Ferries will be forced to cut sailings and reduce the services relied upon by small businesses and workers across Vancouver Island, Denman Island and Hornby Island.

He told Morneau that the operation of the ferries has been significantly disrupted due to the COVID-19 public health emergency and it needs help to protect jobs.

BC Ferries is an independent company operating at arms length from the provincial government and is mostly dependent on fares to sustain services. The reduction of sailings has caused an 80 per cent revenue loss and undermined its ability to keep its staff employed. The federal government has deemed the company as a “public-sector entity” and not eligible for emergency wage benefits.

The Canadian Ferry Association estimates losses in the sector, which is federally regulated, to exceed $450 million.

“I urge you to amend the eligibility criteria of CEWS to allow BC Ferries to access the program,” Johns said in the letter. “You can ensure that the essential work done by BC Ferries continues, protects the jobs it creates, and retains the essential connections between communities by allowing BC Ferries to access CEWS.”

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