Churchill, MB — The federal government has announced millions of dollars in economic diversification and research money for a northern Manitoba town that lost its rail service this year.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says the money will be used to help create jobs in Churchill, which is dealing with higher shipping costs and a drop in the vital tourism industry.
The town of 900 people on Hudson Bay lost its only land connection to the south last spring, when railway owner Omnitrax announced it would not repair severe flood damage to the region’s rail line.
Since then, goods and people have had to be flown in at much higher cost.
The federal government has filed a lawsuit against Omnitrax and is trying to help transfer ownership of the rail line to a consortium of northern Manitoba communities.
Carr says progress on that front is being made, and everyone is anxious to see the rail line under new ownership and fixed.
“Certainly we’re very hopeful that this will be completed in time for the transportation season,” Carr said in an interview Friday.
Churchill Mayor Mike Spence said he was glad to hear about the federal funding, which will be used for projects ranging from fresh-food gardens to new research jobs at the Churchill Marine Observatory.
“It’s additional funding so that we can go through a very challenging and difficult time that we have here.”
Spence said the main focus is on restoring rail service and he hopes a deal will be reached, although he would not go into detail.
“We have a target that we need to meet and we’re moving along,” he said.
“There’s certain things that need to be done. You know, we’re hoping to sit across the table — so to speak — shortly after the new year sometime.”