Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says she hasn’t made a decision on whether to allow Omnitrax Canada to ship oil through the Port of Churchill. And, it’s not clear the file may ever land on her desk.
"Transport Canada’s role, on a technical basis, is to ensure that rail line is appropriate, it can handle the oil, that all the safety mechanisms are in place," said Raitt, who was in Winnipeg this morning. "When it comes to my desk we’ll consider it."
Omnitrax has said it already has the necessary regulatory approvals in place to begin test shipments this summer. It’s not clear where Ottawa’s oversight process stands, or whether there is any mechanism for Ottawa to reject Omnitrax’s plan.
Omnitrax hopes to begin shipping light crude oil on its Hudson Bay Railway and through the Port of Churchill this August, a test run that could eventually result in 3.3 million barrels of oil shipped per year through the port. Environmental groups and some First Nations are opposed to the plan, as is the Manitoba government, especially following last year's deadly train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que., which killed 47 people.
Raitt said she has spoken with the provincial government about its concerns and met with some First Nations chiefs last fall.