The Government of Canada is deeply concerned that OmniTRAX Inc. has not yet commenced repairs and that further delay may jeopardize the ability to complete repairs before winter. As per its 2008 agreement, the Government of Canada committed to provide financial support to Hudson Bay Railway Company in exchange for their agreement to repair, maintain and operate the rail service through to Churchill until 2029.
“The Government of Canada remains committed to the people of Churchill and Northern Manitoba and is ready to do its part to restore rail service,” said Jim Carr, minister of natural resources. “Time is of the essence here, and quick action from all partners is needed now.”
In the event that OmniTRAX Inc. is not willing to satisfy its contractual obligations, the Government will work to facilitate discussion for the transfer of the rail line to a new owner and will work with that new owner to restore rail service. Canada is fully prepared to act quickly to provide such support, provided that:
- The assets are transferred at a reasonable price taking into account OmniTRAX Inc’s obligations;
- The new owner has support from First Nations and other communities along the route; and
- The new owner has a viable business plan to operate the rail line safely, reliably and cost-effectively.
The Government will also engage with the Government of Manitoba as a partner in supporting service restoration and go-forward operations.
Given the urgency, Canada is willing to explore any other options, including interim funding to enable restoration of rail service, should there be material progress on the conditions outlined above. Canada is willing to do its part to support a speedy solution with all partners.
Canada is furthering its commitment by appointing Wayne Wouters, who is currently strategic and policy advisor with McCarthy Tétrault LLP, as the Government’s chief negotiator to represent Canada’s interests in delivering a successful outcome for the people and communities in northern Manitoba. As chief negotiator, Wouters will play a key role in the ongoing discussions with OmniTrax Inc., interested buyers, community leaders, and the Manitoba government. His experience as the former clerk of the Privy Council and secretary of the Treasury Board as well as previous negotiations position him well to accelerate progress.