The Association of Manitoba Municipalities wants the province and federal government to make revitalizing the Port of Churchill and ensuring operations of the rail line to the northern town their top priority.
The town of Churchill’s mayor and council asked delegates for support, bringing an emergency resolution to last week’s municipal leaders’ convention in Winnipeg.
The resolution calls on the AMM to lobby both levels of government to “jointly act to ensure that the Port of Churchill reopens for the 2017 grain season.”
“The potential loss of the port and rail line would be a setback to all municipalities in the province,” said AMM president Chris Goertzen in a news release. “The development of Canada’s North benefits us all.”
The Port of Churchill’s owner, OmniTrax Canada, gave notice July 25 that it was shutting the port down and not shipping any grain for the foreseeable future. This has resulted in more than 100 grain elevator, port and railway employees being laid off across Manitoba, with much of the impact centred in Churchill.
Churchill Mayor Mike Spence said his council has been having meetings with the feds and province and that coalition has formed from representatives from Churchill, The Pas, northern communities including the Kivalliq Region in Nunavut and the Hudson Bay Route Association. The group supports acquiring the assets of the port.
The resolution passed at AMM says the potential loss of the port would be a setback to farmers and all municipalities in the province supporting development in the North, noting also that the port is an essential base for Arctic operations supporting federal ocean protection plans.
The request for action is directed at Manitoba’s new Northern Economic Development Strategy unveiled at the beginning of November by Growth Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen. That initiative aims to attract new business to develop northern Manitoba’s potential.
That strategy is being led by co-chairs Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.