Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Northern port supporters appeal to government

The early closing has left communities — and grain shipments — in limbo

A consortium supporting continued operation of the Port of Churchill met with federal and provincial government representatives this week in search of ways to keep the port open.

“This is an emergency for our community, our region and indeed our country,” Churchill Mayor Mike Spence in a release. “We’ve been told by farmers that there is a bumper crop and as an export country, we can’t be shutting down ports if we are to keep people employed and grow our economy.”

The consortium consisting of representatives from the Town of Churchill, Opaskwayak Cree Nation, the town of The Pas, City of Thompson, War Lake First Nation, the Hudson Bay Route Association and The Pas Chamber of Commerce has offered its support to both levels of government in developing a long-term plan for the port.

“We have all come together to find a workable long-term solution and we are prepared to advance a northern regional ownership model that we feel is the best approach going forward,” Opaskwayak Cree Nation Chief Michael Constant said.

The port’s owner OmniTrax Canada issued layoff notices to port employees, saying that due to unforeseen circumstances the 2016 grain shipping season would be ending earlier than expected. The port’s closing affects an estimated 200 jobs both direction and indirectly in communities along the Bayline.

The early closing also leaves shippers with grain at the port or in cars and loading facilities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan that ship to the port in limbo.

The NDP caucus issued a statement criticizing Premier Brian Pallister for his silence on the issue.

“Brian Pallister has made clear that even though he is prepared to provide a public subsidy to Bell Canada, one of the largest private corporations in Canada, he would not do so to ensure that the Port of Churchill remains open,” the statement said.

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