June 20, 2017
Forget Omnitrax: Manitoba Government should take over Churchill Rail Line and Port
Winnipeg, MB - Dougald Lamont, who is running for leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, says the Province of Manitoba should stop stalling and take over and upgrade the Churchill Rail Line and Port, and operate it as a Provincial Crown Corporation in order to secure a sustainable future for the rail line and the communities it serves.
“The future of northern Manitoba should not be determined by putting short-term profits ahead of the long-term needs of communities and families,” said Lamont. “Public administration means local input and long-term benefits for Manitoba that we’re not seeing under a private American owner.”
The Port of Churchill and the rail line that serves it are run by Omnitrax, who was going to sell to a group of Northern Manitoba First Nations for $20 million in May. The deal has been shelved since serious flooding washed out parts of the rail line. The tracks may be closed until next spring, as Omnitrax says repairs exceed its insurance coverage, and government funds are needed to fix the tracks.
Lamont said instead of bailing out Omnitrax using millions in public funds, the Manitoba Government should immediately take over the administration of the line and work to ensure repairs are completed as quickly as possible, while committing to upgrades with a focus on northern economic development and jobs.
Lamont said the people of Manitoba would be far better served by a publicly administered rail line with permanent and sustainable infrastructure which enables Northern Manitoba to succeed on its own terms.
“In Winnipeg, we are willing to spend more than $100 million on a railway underpass so that people don’t have to wait an extra 15 minutes when they are commuting home,” said Lamont. “We are talking about a legacy investment in Manitoba that reflects a duty of care to Northern Manitobans to ensure they have access to food, transport, and economic opportunity for decades.”
Lamont said that a publicly administered rail line would consult with and have representation from northern municipalities as well as First Nations communities.
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