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Manitoba open to shipping LNG through Churchill

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Manitoba isn’t shying away from the Hudson Bay Railway and Port of Churchill being used to ship energy from Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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Manitoba isn’t shying away from the Hudson Bay Railway and Port of Churchill being used to ship energy from Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“We are looking at liquefied natural gas, primarily,” Premier Heather Stefanson said Tuesday at a news conference about the throne speech and her Progressive Conservative government’s agenda.

In August, the province and the federal government announced $147.6 million to turn the railway into a modern trade corridor to Canada’s lone Arctic port. The railway is owned and operated by Arctic Gateway Group LP, a partnership of 41 First Nations and rail line communities.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

“We are looking at liquefied natural gas, primarily,” Premier Heather Stefanson said Tuesday at a news conference about the throne speech and her Progressive Conservative government’s agenda.

At the time, the premier wouldn’t say the railway could be used to ship energy products (natural gas, oil or oil pucks) through the port, and would only say there’s an “opportunity for a dialogue in many of those areas.”

On Tuesday, she said Manitoba has been in discussions with Saskatchewan and Alberta about their interest in using the railway to transport liquefied natural gas.

“We know with the energy challenges in Europe, with the horrible situation there, the shortage of food potentially, that Manitoba is well-positioned with the Port of Churchill to be able to look at what that could mean in the long term for our province,” Stefanson said.

“In this tumultuous time, people, companies and investors are recognizing that Manitoba is the answer to many of the world’s problems,” the throne speech said.

It mentioned the province’s $74-million contribution to restore the vital link that has attracted investment in the Port of Churchill, but didn’t specify its use to ship Alberta and Saskatchewan energy.

The railway is focused on restoring the rail line that’s been subject to flooding and washouts, chief executive officer Mike Woelcke said Tuesday. The company has been approached by many interests looking to do business but right now their priority is fixing the tracks. Before any deals are done, the 41 communities involved will be consulted, he said.

Shipping fossil fuels through Churchill is a “terrible idea,” said the director of one conservation organization.

“Actively courting new fossil fuel infrastructure is like choosing to put asbestos fibres into a room full of folks with breathing problems,” said Eric Reder, director of the Manitoba Wilderness Committee.

“This is a small volume plan that only benefits oil and gas producers, and it leads to uninhabitable Earth,” Reder said.

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal said Tuesday the rail line plays a critical role in Canada’s national interests, and that First Nations and communities on the line and the bay should be engaged in any discussionabout using it for the potential transportation of liquid natural gas.

He said the railway is key to maintaining good-paying jobs in northern Manitoba and connecting the only deep-water Arctic port in Canada with access to the mainland as an option for future trade. It’s more important now than ever, Vandal said.

“While we are witnessing escalating Russian aggression, we need to maintain these assets and address their deficiencies to maintain our global interests.”

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said rather than looking to ship Alberta and Saskatchewan fossil fuels, the PCs should invest in developing hydrogen energy sources to ship through Churchill.

“Once again with the PCs, they seem intent on creating job opportunities for people in other provinces instead of jobs here in Manitoba.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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