With the closure of the railway to Churchill, we are told communities in northern Manitoba are forced to shop outside the province which is costing double and resulting in millions of dollars in loss of revenue for Manitoba.
Mike Reimer owner of Churchill wild, based out of Iles Des Chenes, says for their company it has been a real struggle getting groceries and essential opperating goods up to their lodges in northern Manitoba. He notes their shipping costs are up probably around 150% but says they have no choice but to operate because guests are booked one to two years in advance.
Reimer notes the closure of the port and railway have dramatically impacted the cost of living for families living in Churchill.
"I know there are people that are leaving with the port closing and the rail line closing. There's been a huge loss of jobs, I heard from one of the teachers in the communities there's been a significant drop in enrollment in the school this year which would indicate families have left. So across all fronts, people are feeling it and it's showing."
Reimer says Churchill is becoming a ghost town with all the families moving away due to the incredibly high cost of living and lack of jobs. For example, he adds milk at the local store goes for about $14 per jug.
Goods that used to come up to Churchill by train now have to be flown in which Reimer notes is costing up to double or more. He adds for larger items that can't be delivered by plane, they were forced to shop outside of the province and have them shipped by boat.
"It's s just something we're forced to do right now, it's a little ludicrous when you think of us living in Manitoba and we have to shop in Montreal, it's absolutely insane. It's strictly out of a must do necessity, we have no options."
Reimer explains it's not only their company and the town of Churchill that are being affected but the rest of northern Manitoba and parts of Nunavut as well. There's has been talk between the federal and provincial governments of money going towards the issue but Reimer says he hasn't heard of anything concrete yet.
"One of the things that's really missing in this conversation the province and federal governments are having is that people have completely lost sight of the enormous potential of everything that's north of Churchill. In my mind Churchill's just always been the gateway, the real money maker, the real business is north of us moving into the arctic, moving into Nunavut. There are hundreds of milions of dollars in trade goods that should be purchased in Winnipeg and shipped through Churchill but they're doing it all through Montreal which is a little insane if you ask me."
Reimer notes the railway does need a fair bit of income to operate and says the port was feeding right into that by shipping all of Manitoba and Saskatchewan's grain up to Churchill then shipped out overseas to Europe. He explains that money was all put into the operations and maintenance of the rail line itself.
"It's all connected, without a port the rail doesn't have income and without the railway, the port can't operate so yeah, it's a mess, a big mess. It's the same company that has control over the rail line has control over the port. So we've sort of lost control of our own destiny in northern Manitoba which is pretty sad."