Churchill could possibly lose its’ economic bread and butter soon. The Canadian federal government seemingly is deciding to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) as the restrictive structural decision making body for the Canadian wheat farmers. The current monopoly system mandated by the CWB forces prairie wheat farmers to sell the majority of their grain through the Port of Churchill. If the feds get their way, which they usually do, this could spell major changes for Churchill. Although the Conservative parliment has lacked the majority to pass the legislation since 2006, the new election could spell an end to that string.
Nearly 90% of the grain shipped through the Churchill grain port comes from the CWB farmer alliance. The port processes enough grain products to employ 200 people throughout Summer and Fall in Churchill. If the CWB is vanquished, other sea ports such as Vancouver, BC and Thunder Bay, Ontario could become attractive to many wheat farmers across Canada. Jobs in Churchill will be severely affected as well as the Hudson bay railroad line into Churchill which doubles as both a passenger line and grain car transport line. Additionally, jobs associated with the rail line in Gillam, Thompson and the Pas may vanish also. And, several hundred Winnipeg jobs at the CWB and grain commission will be at risk as those offices face closure or relocation.
Churchill Mayor Mike Spence is fighting hard for the government to slow down the process and take a closer look at how Churchill and these other communities will be negatively affected by the decision. Spence is urging the feds to implement an economic impact statement…a study similar to an environmental impact statement. The latter would be required if , say, the polar bears in Churchill were threatened by human activity. In many ways, if this decision goes through, they just might be!