Churchill Manitoba - Churchill-Keewatinook Aski MP and NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton asked 15 Jun 2017 in the House of Commons if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government would step in to assist Churchill and nationalize the OmniTrax-owned port and the Hudson Bay Railway, the town's only land link to the rest of Manitoba, a portion of which is currently impassable due to damage caused by flooding.
"Today I rise to share the sense of frustration and abandonment that many share in our region of Northern Manitoba, frustration that the federal government is nowhere to be found in these tough times," Ashton said.
"Churchill and the Bayline communities are devastated. The American billionaire that owns the rail line and the port has left them completely stranded. Northern Manitoba has given a great deal to Canada and it's time for the federal government to step up, to nationalize the port and rail line. The community is suddenly isolated, businesses are hurting, people are worried, we need immediate federal action. What Churchill is facing is a national disgrace. Our north deserves better. Will the federal government step in to address the immediate crisis and finally work to renationalize the port and the rail line and work with northern and indigenous communities to get it working again?"
Transport Minister Marc Garneau replied that the federal government provides assistance to any province or territory that requests it and is keeping tabs on the situation in Churchill.
"The minister of public safety has been in contact with the government of Manitoba to make that offer clear to them and we're monitoring the situation and, from the Transport Canada point of view, we are developing a plan to make sure that both the Port of Churchill and the airport are capable of addressing the needs with respect to resupply for the people of Churchill," said Garneau.
Ashton's request for federal action came the same day that the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC), a non-profit research centre near Churchill, said that suspension of rail service will impact its operations due to much higher costs for fuel, food, and supplies and cancellations by user groups.
The CNSC says it receives less than eight percent of its funding from government sources, making user fees critical.
"Rail is a vital link for Churchill and the CNSC," said executive director Grant MacNeil in a press release.
"One of our biggest strengths is how accessible we are to learners and researchers, but that will be in jeopardy without help. What's most unfortunate is that many of the groups that are being forced to cancel are school groups who fundraise for trips to Chruchill, and who are the least able to deal with the increased cost of travel. The CNSC is doing everything it can to continue to provide our subsidized rates to school and youth groups, but we will need the support of all our members if we are able to do this into the future."
The CNSC is asking anyone who wants to help out to go to their website at churchillscience.ca and make a donation.
The institution is currently planning a 40th anniversary celebration for 25 Aug 2017.
"It isn't easy planning a party with all the challenges presented by the closure of the rail line, but now more than ever it's important to think about the future, and have the members of our community come out and show their support," said MacNeil.