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Manitoba Offers Money, But No Details to Help Churchill Amid Rail Closure

September 1, 2017 2:22 PM | News

Brian Pallister

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister responds to media in Winnipeg, Tuesday, January 31, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

By The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG, Man. — Premier Brian Pallister says he is willing to put up provincial money to help the northern port town of Churchill.

But Pallister is offering few details of his plan and says some of the $500 million over 10 years would be to continue existing programs.

Churchill lost its only land link to the outside world this spring when flooding caused severe damage to the rail line that was used to transport goods and people.

Since then, prices have jumped sharply for food and other items that must now be flown in.

The rail line is owned by Denver-based Omnitrax, which has said it cannot afford the $20 million to $60 million in repair costs.

Pallister says the province won’t fund repairs because rail service is a federal responsibility, but the province is willing to spend money on economic development, social services and other infrastructure work.

“I’m not talking about infringing on areas of federal responsibility,” Pallister said Friday.

“We’re talking about investing in other areas that are our responsibility. Areas such as health services, social services, economic development, protection, infrastructure.”

He refused to provide further details.

Omnitrax had been in negotiations to sell the rail line to a First Nations consortium, but there have been no developments on that front in recent months.

Pallister said he had hoped the federal government would have found a solution by now in terms of getting the rail line fixed and under stable ownership.

“There has not been satisfactory progress to date,” Pallister said.