By Cosmin Dzsurdzsa February 13, 2022
After laying off a third of its workforce over vaccine mandates and receiving $187.5 million in pandemic bailouts, VIA Rail is now asking the federal government for more taxpayers’ money,
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, management at the Crown corporation asked for millions more in funds to avoid having to make “drastic cuts” in the Summary Of The 2021-2025 Corporate Plan presented in the House of Commons.
“Without sufficient and timely funding VIA Rail would be obliged to make drastic cuts which is a significant business and reputational risk exacerbated by layoffs, significant restructuring costs including employment security and severance payments and start-up costs when the service resumes,” claimed company staff.
“It may take until 2024 to return to the level of demand seen in 2019. Under such conditions VIA Rail, while continuing to prudently provide needed transportation services to Canadians as it has done in 2020, would be forced to seek additional funding through 2022, 2023 and 2024.”
Last year, the Liberals gave the company $187.5 million in COVID-19 relief as well as for a plan to cover VIA Rail’s deficits. Despite the bailout, the company laid off a third of its workers – totalling 1,016 employees – after the Trudeau government announced a vaccine mandate for federally regulated industries.
The same vaccine mandate applied to unvaccinated travellers, who are now prohibited from boarding domestic or international trains and flights.
VIA Rail’s revenues plunged 98% at the height of the pandemic while ridership on trains has fallen from 5.5 million to 1.1 million.
“As a result of the present operating environment VIA Rail had to manage an unprecedented revenue shortfall as it continued to provide much needed transportation services to Canadians,” management wrote.
At one point in 2020, the company was losing one-third of a million dollars per day.
The Department of Transport had said that it would work closely with the Crown corporation to help them find the “right amount of” taxpayers dollars it would take for them to recover from the fallout.
“We are working closely with VIA Rail and the Department of Finance to ensure their variables, the revenue projections, are well understood by us, by them, so they have the right amount of money to deliver this essential service to Canada,” said the department’s chief financial officer Ryan Pilgrim in May 2021.