The federal government has brokered a deal aimed at restoring rail service to the Port of Churchill in northern Manitoba.
In a May 31 statement, Canada’s natural resources minister Jim Carr said Ottawa has reached an agreement in principle to restore service on the Hudson Bay Railways (HBR) and transfer ownership of the Port of Churchill to a new ownership group.
According to the statement, the ownership group includes Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings, Regina-based pulse processor AGT Food and Ingredients (AGT), and a group known as Missinnipi Rail Limited Partnership.
The agreement involves 30 First Nations and 11 non-First Nations communities in northern Manitoba and seven Kivalliq communities in western Nunavut.
Fairfax and AGT each offer significant private sector leadership and short line rail experience to the partnership and are integral to the longer-term financial prospects of the Port of Churchill, the statement said.
The current owner of the railway and port is OmniTrax Canada.
“The people of northern Manitoba have long understood the value of the rail line,” said Carr.
“This agreement in principle allows those most affected to have a direct stake in the future and long-term interests of their communities.”
Details of the agreement were not disclosed.
The deal was facilitated by negotiator Wayne Wouters, who was appointed by Ottawa to identify a new owner for the railway and port facilities.
A portion of the Hudson Bay Railway between Gillam, Man., and Churchill has been out of service for more than a year after flooding caused extensive damage to the track and railbed.
Ottawa called the railway a “foundational pieces of transportation infrastructure for the northern portion of the province.”
“The announcement today is a signal that negotiations are moving forward and a made-in-Canada solution is imminent,” the federal statement said.
“The Government of Canada is committed to the people of northern Manitoba and to re-establishing rail service before winter 2018. We look forward to when the deal is done and when service is restored to the Town of Churchill.”