NDP Call for Leadership in Response to Crisis in the North: Loss of Freight Service Adding Insult to Injury

Pallister and his cabinet are failing families in Churchill, in the North and across Canada by not taking leadership to find a solution to the devastating impact of OmniTRAX’s abrupt decision to layoff staff in Churchill and cut back on freight rail service, MLA for Flin Flon Tom Lindsey said today.

Sources have informed the Manitoba NDP that OmniTRAX is also cutting freight shipments by rail from twice a week to once a week starting July 29th.

“This is a disaster for Northern Manitoba,” said Lindsey. “The loss of ten percent of Churchill’s jobs is devastating to the community, and the future of the port is now in doubt. The loss of freight shipments adds insult to injury and will almost certainly drive up food prices and limit access to necessary supplies.”

Communities along OmniTRAX’s network – Winnipeg, The Pas, Thompson, Churchill, and up to Nunavut – are losing key services that help them prosper. Since news of the port closure broke late Monday, Manitoba’s Premier has not addressed the public or shown any leadership to address this crisis.

“Pallister’s government hasn’t said much, but they did reassure Northern Manitobans not to be worried about freight service. They are either misleading Manitobans or not concerned, and I don’t know which is worse,” said Lindsey.

What Manitobans are hearing is callous platitudes and a hands-off attitude from ministers. Minister of Agriculture Ralph Eichler told Northerners on Tuesday, “You’re gonna have to start looking for other opportunities,” and that he hopes “somebody will pick that up.” The Manitoba NDP strongly call on the Pallister government to “pick up” a leadership role and be accountable and transparent to Manitobans.

The provincial government is sitting on their hands as Manitoba loses a strategic asset for this province and Canada. The need for arctic ports and arctic sovereignty will only grow in the coming years.

“This is yet another disappointing instance where we see the government’s lack of interest in the North,” said Lindsey. “Where are the commitments for this region? Northern Manitobans are tired of being ignored by this government: they expect and deserve more. Churchill and the region are in crisis.”