Provincial Chamber says now is the time to look for long-term Northern solution
The current stand still of rail and passenger service to Northern Manitoba is costing residents dearly and should serve as a call to action for both the federal and provincial governments. Today, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, the voice of Manitoba business, is sending letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Greg Selinger calling for a strategic direction for the upgrade and improvement of the rail infrastructure in Northern Manitoba.
“The viability of the Port of Churchill is more than Manitoba’s issue alone and includes more than the movement of grain or oil”, said Chambers President and CEO Chuck Davidson. “While disappointing, the current shutdown of the rail line should be the impetus needed for both levels of government to work with the private sector to help permanently solve this issue and to help ensure the long term viability of the Hudson Bay Rail Line and the Port of Churchill.”
Since the derailment of rail cars carrying grain in early June, rail transfer has come to a screeching halt as OmniTRAX works on permafrost issues with the rail line. VIA Rail service of passengers, carrying local residents as well as numerous tourists has been held up in Thompson, leaving many companies to contemplate closing their doors until service is restored. Some shipments to Churchill are coming in by air but the prohibitively higher cost is causing business even more issues. How long this situation will continue remains unknown. Communications to residents, business and tourists has not been forthright.
Local residents and businesses in Northern Manitoba are experiencing increased costs in obtaining necessary food and supplies and are also seeing loss of tourism business in an already short season in a challenging and competitive industry. For the Manitoba Chambers this situation speaks to the importance for the immediate need for the improved infrastructure in Northern Manitoba and the need for better communication to our northern constituents.
“We are not asking the province or federal government to just arbitrarily pour money into a problem many do not comprehend,” said Davidson. “We want to sit down and discuss a long-term strategy that will benefit all Northern Manitoba. It is the Gateway to the Central Arctic and its future is important to all of Canada. We know it, business and residents know it and we hope our elected officials know it.”
The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, established in 1931, is the umbrella organization for Manitoba’s chamber movement. With a membership comprised of 66 Local Chambers of Commerce, as well as direct Corporate Members, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce is Manitoba’s largest and most diverse business lobby, representing over 10,000 businesses and community leaders.