But the port only has half of its life back

(November 1, 2018)  Today’s announcement by the Prime Minister that the 1,000 km. Churchill rail line is restored and will soon be in operation is very good news for the people of the Town of Churchill and the many communities along that line who depended on it for supplies and transportation.

It is also good news for Canadian northern sovereignty in an age of global warming where the Arctic Ocean will become open for shipping most of the year.

The total cost for restoring the line is being reported as $117 million, just over half of what former Harper Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz suggested it might cost. (see note below)

In spite of the rail line’s restoration, the Port of Churchill is still only getting half of its life back.  As was explained earlier, Churchill’s grain terminal was only viable when the farmer owned and directed Canadian Wheat Board was ruthless in choosing shipping terminals that returned the greatest value to prairie grain farmers – for farmers in eastern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba that was often Churchill.

Once the Harper and Ritz administration destroyed the Wheat Board, the private trade choose to bypass Churchill in favour of using their existing facilities.  Without the CWB the private grain trade now enjoys complete impunity and with it the ability to download the extra costs of using their system to the farmers and others who once benefitted from the port of Churchill.

So congratulations are in order to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport for restoring a vital rail link and supporting an important strategic northern port.  Now to make the port financially viable, they need to take the next step and give prairie farmers the collective bargaining power they had with the Canadian Wheat Board.  That would remove the built in conflicts of interest that now cost prairie farmers so much.  Returning collective bargaining will give prairie farmers the chance to restore their reputation for quality, honesty, and reliability on the world stage squandered by the private grain trade.

note:  Canadian Press reports the Federal Government “provided $74 million to help fix the railroad and buy it, along with the town’s port, from Denver-based Omnitrax.”

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