Provincial Government Must Take Immediate Action to Help Laid-off Workers and Ensure Resumption of Grain Shipments from Port of Churchill

It has been two weeks since Omnitrax shut down grain shipments and laid off port workers, but the Pallister government has not offered any solutions to save the 2016 shipping season or any support for workers and their families, NDP MLA for Flin Flon Tom Lindsey said today.

“People in Churchill and the surrounding communities are worried about their future, and the longer this drags on without a solution, the harder it is for them,” Lindsey said. “The provincial government can’t continue to sit back and do nothing. They have to assure the people of Churchill the province is actively working with the private sector, including the owner of the railway and port to see the grain elevator re-open this season.”

While the Conservatives have dragged their feet, Lindsey met with community leaders and workers when the layoffs were first announced. The workers were officially laid off yesterday.

Aside from the long-term concerns, many workers also told Lindsey they fear they may not be eligible for unemployment assistance because their jobs at the port are seasonal.

Lindsey has written to the federal government urging them to take immediate action to waive eligibility requirements for employment insurance for workers at the port and on the rail line.

Lindsey also urges the provincial and federal governments to find a quick solution for the cutbacks in rail shipments to Churchill and Bayline communities. When Omnitrax cut rail shipments from twice a week to once a week it severely reduced access to affordable fresh food for all families in those towns. Other communities along Omnitrax’s network in the North will also be hurt by the reduced food shipments, Lindsey added.

“It’s clear the Tories have no plan and don’t care enough about the North,” Lindsey said. “The Port of Churchill has long been a key contributor to the economy of northern Manitoba and the world knows it as a unique tourism destination. Pallister seems unwilling to do anything to preserve this jewel of the North and has yet to even pick up the phone and contact the company. That is not leadership.”

The former NDP government was committed to ensuring the port stayed open while transitioning to a new sustainable ownership model. The NDP is prepared to be part of the solution, Lindsey said.