The $117 million package was revealed on Friday, two weeks following the sale of the Port of Churchill and the Hudson Bay Railway.
It was purchased by Arctic Gateway Group, a private-public partnership that includes Missinippi Rail Limited Partnership, Fairfax Financial Holdings and AGT Food and Ingredients.
The previous owners were Denver-based OmniTrax.
The federal funding includes $74 million, which will help with the ownership transfer and necessary line repairs.
The remaining $43 million will help subsidize operations of the line and port over the next ten years.
Murad Al-Katib is the President of AGT Food and Ingredient, a pulse processor based in Saskatchewan. He says Churchill is the only rail served Arctic port in North America, calling it a natural resource corridor . . . with tremendous growth potential.”
Repairs have started on the Hudson Bay Line Rail that stretches from northeast Saskatchewan to Churchill.
“We have about 19 or 20 washouts to repair and we’re going to be working until the last day before winter sets in.” says Al-Katib.
The goal is to get the line open before freeze up so goods can once again begin moving by rail. For the past 18 months, everything has had to be flown in saddling local residents with higher costs for items such as groceries and fuel.
The Western Grain Elevators Association (WGEA) is unhappy that federal dollars will be used to subsidize the cost of grain transportation, while conceding Churchill residents need access to reliable rail service.
WGEA Executive Director Wade Sobkowich says it’s unfair to his members who have port facilities at Thunder Bay and Vancouver.
“We wonder when the taxpayers of Canada will say ‘enough is enough’. It’s time to identify the Port of Churchill is not economical for exporting grain.”
Federal money was provided to OmniTrax over the years. There was also a $9 per tonne subsidy to grain companies following the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s export monopoly for wheat and barley.
(above picture-washout from Spring 2017)