[Manitoba] Nervous times up north – by Martin Cash (Winnipeg Free Press – August 26, 2016)


Region ‘coming apart at the seams’ amid series of economic blows martin-cash

After being hit by a couple of recent crushing blows, northern Manitoba’s razor-thin economic base likely has more bad news looming. The suspension of the Port of Churchill’s 2016 shipping season, the reduction of freight shipments to Churchill from two trains per week to one and this week’s announced closure of the Tolko pulp-and-paper mill in The Pas are the latest in a string of bad news.

n addition to those hits, Vale Canada is planning to shut down its nickel smelter in Thompson in 2018, which could impact another 400 jobs, and Hudbay Minerals’ flagship 777 mine in Flin Flon is scheduled to run out of ore at the end of this decade.

It’s all contributing to a pall of anxiety being cast across the North. “Things look like they’re coming apart at the seams in northern Manitoba,” said Ron Evans — chief of Norway House Cree Nation and co-chairman of the Manitoba Mining Advisory.

Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, toured several northern communities earlier this summer before Omnitrax Canada — which operates the Port of Churchill and the Hudson Bay Railway — announced it has decided to curtail operations.

“There is a ton of nervousness in northern Manitoba,” Davidson said. A group of 20 business and government officials are flying to Churchill Monday as a show of solidarity with the North. Unfortunately, they may not be able to offer much more than moral support.

Some say the situation is so urgent it ought to prompt Premier Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government to move its northern economic development strategy up the priority list. But that is not likely to happen.

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