Provincial bureaucrats have formed a group within government to gather information on the impact of Churchill’s rail connection being flooded-out indefinitely.

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This article was published 13/6/2017 (1568 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Provincial bureaucrats have formed a group within government to gather information on the impact of Churchill’s rail connection being flooded-out indefinitely.

And, so far, that’s about it for a lifeline from the Manitoba legislature.

"There will have to be a lot of assessment and analysis of what will have to be moved in there," Mike Gagne, director of operations of the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization, told reporters Monday. "Right now, we have no immediate action to take."

Provincial staff had cautioned the media Gagne would be unable to say much about possible government action because of the blackout on government announcements until today’s byelection in Point Douglas is done.

New Democrat MLA Tom Lindsey (Flin Flon) scoffed at the notion.

"I don’t think Churchill can wait for the premier to be out of a news blackout," he said.

"They’ve got a pretty good airport up there, pretty good runway. For the province, it will be more of a financial role. The feds have the equipment, but they should be working hand-in-hand."

Liberal interim leader Judy Klassen (Kewatinook) said the Pallister government should already be paying for supplies to be flown into Churchill.

Meanwhile, Gagne could not speculate when service could be restored. "They think the rail service will be disrupted indefinitely."

He said no EMO staff travelled to Churchill for its emergency town meeting Monday night, and no government employees have been or will be dispatched to help out physically.

Gagne said the province is awaiting information from Churchill and the private sector to gauge what supplies the town of 900 has in stock, what is needed and when. "We don’t have those numbers now."

He would not say if essential supplies would include food, fuel and other materials needed to maintain the tourism industry vital to the town’s economy.

"Some of the fuel will have to come in by tanker, by sea," Gagne said. That will include propane for home heating and jet fuel to keep local air operations going. The town also needs fuel to keep ambulances and fire trucks running, and to run snowplows in the fall.

Gagne said EMO’s mandate includes dealing with immediate threats to life, safety and infrastructure, but beyond being able to look at options about how critical materials get supplied, he would not say what the province would do if the private sector cannot meet Churchill’s needs.

He acknowledged, however, there are concerns about rising food prices.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca