Throne speech takes aim at nutrient loading

Selinger also plans to move on taking rail lines out of Winnipeg's core

It’s not yet known whether the province’s next legislative steps to cut nutrient loading in Manitoba lakes will involve farming practices.

More legislation to cut nutrient loading into Lake Winnipeg and other water bodies is among the shorter-term commitments in the Selinger government’s latest throne speech.

In the speech, delivered Nov. 16 by Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon, Premier Greg Selinger pledges to “work with all partners to reduce nutrient loading” in Lake Winnipeg and work to prevent further spread of zebra mussels.

The province, in a related press release the same day, said the work to reduce nutrient loading would include “restor(ing) the health of Lake Winnipeg by requiring the reduction of nutrient loading in new legislation.”

That legislation is to be introduced this fall, and is expected to step up protection for Lake Winnipeg and other water bodies, but the province didn’t provide details, such as whether the new legislation would directly affect crop and/or livestock operations.

Previous legislation in Manitoba has put limits on farmers’ ability to fertilize fields — the province’s latest annual winter fertilizing ban came into effect Nov. 19 — and on hog operations’ ability to expand, and expanded buffer zones to protect waterways from fertilizer applications.

Among other throne speech pledges affecting the farming and agri-food sectors, the province said it will invest in the “social determinants of health,” such as access to healthier foods.

To that end, Filmon said, the province “will continue to invest in community-based strategies to expand local production of healthy foods across the North, and work with producers and the agricultural sector to bring local foods to new markets.”

The province also said it will launch a new Growing Communities Infrastructure Fund, which Filmon said is meant “to help rural and northern communities build and renew roads, sewer, water and community centres that families use every day.”

One pledge to Winnipeg residents affecting Manitoba’s rail service and certain agribusinesses in the city limits, calls for the province to “initiat(e) a plan to move rail lines out of Winnipeg, to provide new options to address aging infrastructure, help families save time on their daily commute and reimagine urban renewal in Manitoba’s capital city.”

Such a plan, however, is likely to take more time than the Selinger government has, ahead of the next provincial election scheduled for April 19, 2016.

Pulling up rails in the city core would also affect rail access for agribusinesses such as ADM Milling on Higgins Avenue, which uses Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) track through the Point Douglas area, and fertilizer firm Border Chemical, which connects to CP track at its Gunn Road location in north Transcona.

CP assistant vice-president Martin Cej said Nov. 17 that the province hasn’t been in touch with the company since the throne speech, but said CP is “committed to working with the communities we operate in and we look forward to assisting in the proposed study.”

That said, he added, CP “is satisfied with the current location and operation of our rail yard in Winnipeg. It is a major yard for our operation, a major employer in the area, and plays a strategic and critical role within the region.”

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