The IGA grocery store located near The Pas is shutting down, throwing 47 people out of work.
Staff were notified Wednesday the store located on the neighbouring reserve of Opaskwayak Cree Nation in the Otineka Mall would be closing in the "next few weeks," according to a spokeswoman for Sobeys, which owns the IGA franchise.
"These are never easy decisions to make, particularly with the impact they have on employees and customers. Given the current economic situation in the community and the continued underperformance of the store, we came to a mutual conclusion with the franchisee that it was necessary to close the store," said Keri Scobie in an email statement.
The 20,500-sq.-ft. store has been on the First Nation since 1975. It is owned by the OCN and operates under a franchise agreement with Sobeys West.
This is the latest in a series of economic blows for the northern Manitoba community. In August, The Pas' largest employer — Tolko Industries — announced the paper mill would be shutting down in December. This came on the heels of Omnitrax Canada announcing it was cutting back rail freight service from The Pas to Churchill to one train per week from two.
In late August, Aseneskak Casino in OCN announced its intention to move its location within the next two years, putting 147 local jobs at risk. Although a glimmer of hope has been given with the news of a potential buyer for Tolko, The Pas Mayor Jim Scott fears this isn't the end of the bad news.
"I fear this may be systematic and we haven't seen the end of it," Scott said in a phone interview Wednesday. "We are getting whacked, the market is changing, it really is."
A request for comment to newly elected OCN Chief Christian Sinclair was not returned.
With just over 5,000 people in The Pas and about 3,000 people living on-reserve at OCN, Scott worries the market isn't big enough for these 47 employees to find work in a similar field. There are three other grocery stores in The Pas — an Extra Foods, a Giant Tiger and a family-owned grocer, The Grub Box.
"We are only so big and we only have so many businesses, so a tight market just got tighter," Scott said.
Meanwhile, over 300 jobs hang in the balance during negotiations between Tolko and its potential buyer — American Industrial Acquisition Corp.
Premier Brian Pallister announced last Friday the government had passed a regulation allowing the U.S-based company to defer some required pension contributions for three years to help conclude negotiations. However, he was quick to add it was not a done deal.
The new regulation would give the purchaser more time to address a shortfall in the employees’ pension plans — believed to be in the neighbourhood of $20 million.
Members of Unifor and the Canadian Steelworkers, the two unions that represent Tolko workers, have until Nov. 3 to voice their opposition to the pension deferral.
With files from Larry Kusch
Updated on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at 5:28 PM CDT: Replaces photo