‘That can’t come soon enough:’ Churchill hopes propane crisis sparks railway repair

CHURCHILL, Man. — People in Churchill wrapped up in scarves and mittens as they walked down the streets of the northern Manitoba community over the weekend, but despite the weather many homes maintained the chill inside.

Churchill is critically low on propane — a fuel that is used to heat many buildings.

The town has been without its rail line linking it to the south for more than a year after flooding washed out portions of the tracks.

“It goes back to no rail line, and that’s what the problem is,” said Mayor Mike Spence. “Last year the province had to bring propane in by marine vessel which is the first it’s ever happened in this community.”

On Monday, as temperatures sat around -2 C, the Amundsen icebreaker, a research ship that has spent the last six weeks exploring Hudson Bay, pulled up to the community’s now closed port.

It’s arrival brought experts, scientists and politicians, including Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, north for a two-day workshop exploring climate change and globalization of the Arctic.

Carr said he is aware the province and community are working to rectify the propane situation, and he hopes a similar outcome will follow for the rail line.

“That can’t come soon enough,” he said.

“These people are tough, they are patient and I understand the kind of hardship they have experienced because I’ve seen it … and I hear it.”

Omnitrax, the company that owns the rail line, is appealing a federal regulatory ruling that requires it to repair the track.

Hudson Bay Railway Co., which is owned by Omnitrax, has said it cannot afford to repair the line.

On Friday, the community issued a notice urging people to turn off their heat or reduce temperatures in homes and businesses and to keep windows and doors closed.

The temperature was so cold over the Canada Day weekend that many of the community’s celebratory activities were cancelled or moved inside.

“The biggest concern, of course, is heat in the housing units. They’ve asked everyone to try and preserve as much propane as they can,” said Dave Dealy with the Churchill Chamber of Commerce.

Propane isn’t the only issue, Spence said. The cost of food and other materials has significantly increased since Churchill became a fly-in-only community.

The surge of people on the Amundsen was a good sign for those in the community, despite the pressures it put on the low propane supply. Local officials said they are working with the province to bring in propane and are hopeful it will arrive within a few weeks.

Officials added the top priority remains solidifying a tentative deal to sell the rail line and port to a consortium of northern communities, along with help from the federal government.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Eight dogs found in Innisfail hotel room were kept in cages

Eight dogs, kept in cages in a small hotel room in Innisfail… Continue reading

Severe thunderstorm watch for Central Alberta

Thunderstorm watch covers large area including Sylvan Lake to Stettler

Bird on a wire causes electrical problems in Red Deer

City workers put protective covers on line

WATCH: Kayakers go over Ram Falls south of Nordegg

Two take 30-metre plunge, post video of thrill ride

Count shows slight decrease in Red Deer’s homeless

In two years, the number of homeless in Red Deer has decreased… Continue reading

WATCH: Cirque ZUMA ZUMA puts on a show at Westerner Days

ZUMA ZUMA performs three times a day during Westerner Days

Four-car crash, including RCMP vehicle, on Highway 2

Two sheriff vehicles were also involved in the collision

Divers hunt for 4 after Missouri duck boat sinks, killing 13

BRANSON, Mo. — Divers are searching Friday for four people still missing… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer’s noxious weeds are a goat’s dietary delight

Piper Creek Community Garden gets chemical-free weed control

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

From hot to not? The Baloney Meter weighs in on Scheer’s economy claims

OTTAWA — “Justin Trudeau inherited a booming economy, but he’s squandering it.… Continue reading

Scathing suicide inquiry finds gaps, shortcomings at Royal Military College

OTTAWA — Members of a board of inquiry into three suicides at… Continue reading

Premiers strike deal to allow increased flow of beer, alcohol across borders

ST. ANDREWS, N.B. — Canada’s premiers are set to wrap up their… Continue reading

Trump ready to hit all Chinese imports with tariffs

President Donald Trump has indicated that he’s willing to hit every product… 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