Axworthy quits in frustration

Laments shabby treatment over replacement of Churchill agency

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Lloyd Axworthy, who has championed the strategic importance of Churchill for 30 years, has resigned in frustration from the organization that has marketed the Port of Churchill for more than a decade over what he calls "shabby" treatment from the province.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/01/2015 (2748 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Lloyd Axworthy, who has championed the strategic importance of Churchill for 30 years, has resigned in frustration from the organization that has marketed the Port of Churchill for more than a decade over what he calls “shabby” treatment from the province.

In the fall 2013 speech from the throne, the province announced it was creating a new development agency for the Port of Churchill, effectively replacing the Churchill Gateway Development Corp. (CGDC), the 11-year-old entity Axworthy has chaired since its inception.

Since then, the province has not had meaningful consultation with the CGDC, and at a board meeting earlier this month, Axworthy said he’d had enough and resigned out of “frustration and disappointment.”

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files Lloyd Axworthy says there have been no meaningful consultations with the province while it sets up a new agency.

“I have gone through lots of strange things in government over the years, but I just could not believe that the common courtesies and effective due diligence was not done,” Axworthy said in an interview. “They have made no effort whatsoever to have any serious conversations about what the transition should be like or what the followup will be.”

The creation of the new entity — which the legislation says will “facilitate the long-term development and viability of the Churchill gateway system” — was a surprise even to the president of Omnitrax Canada, the company that owns the port and the Hudson Bay Railway.

Merv Tweed, the president of Omnitrax Canada, was away on holidays and unavailable for comment Friday. But when the news came out in the fall of 2013 about the creation of what is to be called Churchill Arctic Port Canada (CAPC), he was blunt about his dismay at being kept out of the loop.

“It just seems odd, as the sole owner of the port and the rail, that we would not be more intimately involved,” Tweed said at the time.

Axworthy, the recently retired president of the University of Winnipeg and former federal transportation minister, said, “Nothing has changed since then. They (provincial government officials) say they have consulted with some people, but why would you not consult with CGDC? We have been in business for more than 10 years. We know Churchill and its stakeholders.”

The CDGC, which was originally funded by the federal and provincial governments and Omnitrax (federal funding ended more than a year ago) will close March 31. Axworthy said he is concerned, among other things, about the continuity of service as well as the disposition of assets and liabilities of that entity as well as the fate of its staff.

Rich Danis, the director of transportation policy for Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation, said the creation of the new entity emanated out of a federal/provincial report called the Task Force on the Future of Churchill, that was released in January 2013.

The province passed legislation in June 2014 to create CAPC, but Danis said there is still work to be done to produce the regulations as to how it will be run.

There is no board of directors, and Danis said it was not known when those details will be in place.

“The regulations will have to look at circumscribing the area to which the mandate of the corporation will apply,” Danis said. “It is a little like CentrePort Canada. That is what the government is currently doing.”

Some believe there is no time to lose in getting at that work.

Mike Spence, the longtime mayor of Churchill who has also been a board member of CGDC for many years, said he believes the province wants to bring other players into the game.

“It would be great if it (the CGDC) would continue on until the other one was finalized,” he said.

Spence sees mining and other developments in Nunavut as important market opportunities Churchill is well-positioned to take advantage of.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

 

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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