Trudeau Rides to the Rescue!

Churchill, Man., Canada’s sub-Arctic seaport, is still cut off from the outside world by land.

The tiny (pop. 900) town on the south shore of Hudson Bay has always depended on a rickety rail line for freight shipments from the rest of Canada, there being no highway connection.

But the rail link was broken this spring when flood waters washed out whole sections of track. And Omitrax, the line’s owner, says it can’t afford the C$20-$60 million it claims it will need to put the line back into operation.

But the company may soon have to contend with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister. Mr. Trudeau, who recently met with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, says Omitrax must live up to its obligations.

“We’re looking at all options as we ensure that contracts and obligations are respected and fulfilled,” said Mr. Trudeau when asked if the Canadian government would sue Omitrax for breach of contract.

churchill

Grain elevator at Churchill, Man. with rail connection to rest of North America

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On to the Bay . . . Well, not So Fast!

Hudson bay--damage
SUPPLIED A motorcyclist and adventure seeker from Colorado, rode a dirt bike along the bay line from Thompson to Churchill. Reached on Tuesday near Split Lake on the return trip to Thompson, Green said that when he began his expedition, he was already aware that rail service has been suspended because of flood damage. So, as he made his way up the line, he took photos. The photographs he produced – time stamped on June 14 and obtained by the Free Press – reveal a situation much different than the one described by Omnitrax.

Canada’s Prairie farmers can be excused if they’re shedding a few tears. The railway link across  northern Manitoba, one of Canada’s Western provinces, to the tiny port of Churchill (pop. 900) on Hudson Bay has been sliced and diced by recent floods. The damage reportedly is so extensive that the operator, Omnitrax Canada, says the line may be out of service for months.

The outage is particular poignant for the farmers. Not only did they agitate for years for the line to be built, but they saw it as a way of freeing themselves from the high cost of shipping their grain to the Lake Superior port of Thunder Bay, Ont., Canada’s main outlet for Prairie wheat. And even though the line to Churchill has never lived up to its promise, it was, for Western Canadians, still their very own line.

But Omitrax may be exaggerating the seriousness of the washouts. A Winnipeg Free Press story on June 20 (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/photos-from-the-ground-tell-different-story-about-hudson-bay-railway-conditions-429783063.htmlsuggests that because flood waters have receded, getting the line back on track may take less time than the company originally said it would.

Not only does Omitrax want to unload the line, but it has been trying to do so for more than a year to a consortium of First Nations.

“A deal in principle has been reached,” the Free Press reports.  “But the First Nations have stated publicly they need support from the federal and provincial governments to complete the purchase.”

Let’s get on the GO — to Orangeville!

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s leading newspaper, recently noted (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/toronto-driven-growth-fuels-boom-in-sleepyshelburne/article34205376) how Toronto’s relentless expansion is engulfing hitherto largely rural towns like Orangeville, (pop: 30,700), roughly 80 km. northwest of the city.

Even towns farther afield, such as Shelburne (pop: 7,200), are falling prey to Toronto’s juggernaut, given the unquenchable desire of city folk for affordable housing. Not only have home prices in Toronto gone through the roof, but they show no signs of coming back to earth anytime soon.

(Freight train serving Orangeville, Ont., Canada)

GO Transit is the bus and railway network that links downtown Toronto to its far-flung suburbs. And its trains neither serve Orangeville nor Shelburne. But a railway line to Orangeville does exist , (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orangeville_Brampton_Railway), albeit a single-track one. Moreover, it’s now used only for freight. But as a right of way for future GO service, it’s obviously valuable nonetheless.