Churchill finally face-to-face with premier

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PREMIER Brian Pallister touched down Monday in Churchill, his first visit to the polar bear capital since taking office three years ago.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/05/2019 (1177 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

PREMIER Brian Pallister touched down Monday in Churchill, his first visit to the polar bear capital since taking office three years ago.

“People were receptive; they were glad that the premier finally made it to Churchill,” said Dave Daley, head of the Churchill Chamber of Commerce.

The Manitoba premier spent four hours visiting the town of roughly 850, meeting with local officials and announcing a road upgrade.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Brian Pallister made his first visit to Churchill, MB since becoming premier.

“Its always great to have the premier in your community, to see its potential firsthand,” said Mayor Mike Spence, adding he discussed expanding the use of the local hospital, as well as how local jobs fit into the PCs’ Look North development strategy.

Spence and others have been critical of the Pallister government for not visiting the town after its May 2017 railway washout, which cut off its land link to the south until November 2018.

Daley said the chamber had an hour-long discussion with the premier, who took questions. “It wasn’t a contentious visit. I think everyone was interested to get a feel of who he was.”

Pallister announced provincial support for upgrading the gravel road that links numerous tourism spots, Spence said. Existing funding is upgrading the town’s civil centre, and helping build the University of Manitoba’s marine observatory.

The premier’s visit focused on tourism — an industry the province and Ottawa are both ponying up cash to develop in Manitoba.

“Finally, they’re realizing that there’s huge business,” said Daley, who runs a dog-sledding company. “It’s not just willy-nilly.”

Locals raised objections to the closure of the provincially owned Liquor Mart, which will be replaced by a section of the town’s Northern grocery store in a month.

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corp. has said the move is part of a province-wide exercise, and profits have been decreasing as Nunavut gets its own liquor sales off the ground. Daley and others argue the town needs to hold onto higher-paid, public-sector jobs as the port gets on its feet.

The mayor also said the cost of gas and transporting goods along the repaired railway remains high.

Local tourism operators have complained provincial contractors often stay in Manitoba Housing units that haven’t been occupied by subsidized tenants, instead of having them support local hotels.

The premier “didn’t seem happy about that situation,” Daley claimed.

Pallister has hinted at calling an election before the scheduled October 2020 vote, possibly in September.

In 2016, 33 of the town’s 230 cast ballots went to the PC candidate in the riding, with two-thirds of those voters siding with the NDP.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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