Manitoba

Port of Churchill workers' union wants feds to create port authority

The union representing laid-off workers at the Port of Churchill says it's time to create a federally regulated port authority at the northern facility.

Port authority similar to those in Thunder Bay and Saguenay could create viable facility, union says

The Port of Churchill could have uses other than grain shipping, the union representing laid-off workers says. The creation of a federal port authority could help prepare it for cruise ship tourism and for Canadian Navy missions in the North, a news release says. (Port of Churchill)

The union representing laid-off workers at the Port of Churchill says it's time to create a federally regulated port authority at the northern facility.

Denver-based OmniTrax Rail laid off staff at the port in July.

The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees says the creation of a port authority similar to those in Thunder Bay, Ont., and Saguenay, Que., could create a modern and viable facility.

"Now is the time to act. With hard work and a united effort behind the creation of a Churchill Port Authority, we believe that the structure and operations could be ready and in place for a 2017 shipping season," states a news release from the UCTE.

Tourism and sovereignty

In addition to serving the grain-shipping season, there are new opportunities emerging for the port, the release states.

"The recent voyage of the luxury cruise ship the Crystal Serenity to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, reinforces that all forms of tourism [are] coming to the Arctic and it is coming quickly," it adds. "The Port of Churchill is the ideal port for these ships and vessels, thereby enhancing tourism activities already underway in this region."

OmniTrax laid off workers at the Port of Churchill in July. (CBC NEWS)

There are additional reasons, other than economic, to keep the port open, the release states.

"The Port of Churchill is Canada's only deep water port. With a small amount of dredging and charting, this could be the best port location for the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Navy as they plan to address issues of sovereignty and safety in the North."

Last month, Churchill Mayor Mike Spence also called on the federal government to reclaim ownership of the port and do upgrades.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, the Winnipeg South Centre MP who is working on the Churchill file, said last month that the federal government is looking at options for the port.

A number of possibilities will eventually come before Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, Carr said.

"I will be having conversations with him and other colleagues to determine what we think is the best way forward," Carr said at the time.

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