The closed rail line and Port of Churchill in Churchill, Manitoba, Monday, July 2, 2018. The closure of the port and the rail line has resulted in economic hardship in the community. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

‘Not going to make it:’ Hopes dashed as talks break down over Churchill rail sale

CHURCHILL, Man. — Residents of Churchill are devastated after learning efforts to restore rail service to the northern Manitoba town have fallen apart.

Hudson Bay Railway said talks broke down on Tuesday after months of negotiation to transfer ownership of the crippled rail line — the community’s sole land link — to a consortium of northern communities.

The railway, owned by Denver-based Omnitrax, would only say a sale to the consortium may no longer be possible.

“Despite our best efforts to find common ground on certain key issues, it now appears that this transaction has fallen apart,” the company said in a statement. “This outcome is unexpected and very unfortunate. We offer our apologies to all those who depend on the line.”

That was cold comfort for Rhoda de Meulles, who owns the local hardware store with her husband and can’t afford to keep flying in supplies.

“We are not going to make it,” she said.

“This town can’t do it,” Dale de Meulles added.

The rail line was damaged by severe flooding more than a year ago and Omnitrax has said it cannot afford the repairs. Since then, goods and people have had to be flown into the subarctic community at much higher cost.

Federal regulators ruled last month that the Hudson Bay Railway has a legal obligation to fix and maintain the line, although the company has said it will appeal the decision.

Christian Sinclair, chief of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and co-chair of the One North consortium negotiating to take ownership of the rail line, said he was completely surprised by Hudson Bay Railway’s statement.

“We were caught by surprise and we are still working together as a consortium to get a deal done here.”

Churchill Mayor Mike Spence and Sinclair later put out a brief statement saying the “buying group is united.”

“We remain at the table and we fully support the efforts to conclude a reasonable deal.”

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, who was in Churchill on Tuesday, declined an interview request, but his office issued a statement saying Canada will find a solution.

“This situation has had significant impacts to the town of Churchill and the communities along the line,” the statement said.

Repairs to the railway must start within two weeks if they are to be completed before winter, the de Meulles said. Without the rail, they will have to order a year’s worth of supplies to be brought in by a cargo ship from Quebec.

It has meant costs for packaging and shipping are completely unsustainable, they said. But locking the door for good, will be the very last option.

“Our life is Churchill,” Dale de Meulles said.

“To us, it’s one day at a time and that’s how we operate now, one day at a time,” his wife said. “We see what happens from there.”

Just Posted

Trump-Putin summit opens without talk of election meddling

HELSINKI — With a wink and a slouch, respectively, President Donald Trump… Continue reading

Ultra-light helicopter pilot killed in crash near High River

Police say the pilot of an ultra-light helicopter is dead after crashing… Continue reading

Heat warning in effect for Central Alberta

Environment Canada has issued a heat warning for Central Alberta. Residents in… Continue reading

Westerner Days parade set for Wednesday in downtown Red Deer

Over 30,000 people are expected to line up the streets of downtown… Continue reading

Storm rips through Central Alberta

Hail pelts region causing damage to farmland, plus communities in Ponoka, Bashaw and Stettler

CFIA inspects after video shows pigs crammed into B.C. transport truck

The video shows pigs piled on top of one another in a transport truck on a “sweltering” hot day last week

Croatia gears up to give heroes’ welcome to World Cup team

ZAGREB, Croatia — Fans are pouring in from throughout the country as… Continue reading

Statelessness a hurdle for some rescued Thai boy

MAE SAI, Thailand — The 12 boys and coach of the Wild… Continue reading

Lobbying commissioner rejects complaints against firearms panel member

OTTAWA — A federal watchdog has dismissed complaints that a mass-shooting survivor… Continue reading

CREA reports June home sales down 10.7% from year ago, but up from May

OTTAWA — The Canadian Real Estate Association says the number of homes… Continue reading

Red Deer Royals place second at Calgary Stampede parade

Royals depicted life in forest and portrayed destruction by human beings

Muslim candidates running in record numbers face backlash

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A liberal woman of colour with zero name recognition… Continue reading

Former UK Cabinet secretary seeks new Brexit referendum

LONDON — A former U.K. Cabinet minister from the ruling Conservative Party… Continue reading

Man killed by Chicago police ran away, reached for waist

CHICAGO — A man killed by Chicago police had a gun in… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month