With little time to waste a new player has surfaced in the crucial sale of the Port of Churchill to two independent First Nations groups in the north. Investment firm Fairfax Financial Holdings from Toronto hopes to partner with One North and Missinippi Rail LP to wrest ownership from Denver, Colorado-based Omnitrax and set forth in motion the extensive repairs to the Hudson Bay Line damaged by severe flooding last May.
The Port of Churchill may be under new ownership soon. CBC News photo.
The new prospective partner will also bring a financially sound backing and a strong business base to the deal that Churchill officials and residents hope will secure access to the south and free them from isolation.
According to reliable sources, a negotiator for the federal government, former clerk of the Privy Council Wayne Wouters, has brokered a deal with the two potential owners.
“This development has the potential to contribute to an arrangement supported by First Nations and communities in northern Manitoba,” Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said in a statement released Thursday.
“This would enable a sustainable business approach that results in a safe and reliable rail line.”
Paul Rivett, president of Fairfax Financial Holdings, said “we are optimistic about the prospects of northern gateways.” stated in a press release.
“The Churchill rail corridor and the Port of Churchill are important pieces of infrastructure for northern communities and to the economy of Canada. Partnering with First Nations and communities is the right model for this investment,” Rivett said.
He said Fairfax will rely on a company it has invested in, AGT Foods, to develop a plan that is “viable and profitable in the long term as a business.”
Earlier this week, Ottawa responded with an $18-million lawsuit against Omnitrax after it filed filed a claim for damages against the federal government under the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The head of the Fairfax, V. Prem Watsa, has been characterized as the “Warren Buffet of Canada” often investing in troubled companies and turning them into a positive entity. Watsa invested in BlackBerry and Fairfax has significant holdings in several other companies.
Fairfax Financial CEO and chair V. Prem Watsa.CBC News photo.
Omnitrax signed a memorandum of understanding with First Nations Consortium Missinippi Rail in June and then joined forces with One North to strengthen interests in purchasing Omnitrax’s Manitoba assets.
Churchill Mayor Mike Spence, in a written statement to CBC News, said transferring the port and rail line to a stable, strong northern regional ownership group is the highest priority. He is behind the efforts to find a partner to purchase the assets one hundred per cent.
“I am pleased that there are outstanding companies that also share this vision. We now need the negotiations expedited and [to] ensure our preparations for repairs to the rail line and port are ready for the 2018 season,” wrote Spence.
A Polar bear wandering the coast of Churchill. Colby Brokvist photo.
A cross fox loping along the tundra in search of prey. Colby Brokvist photo.
A curious polar bear up on a polar rover in Churchill. Colby Brokvist photo.
High above the tundra with the aurora blazing above. Colby Brokvist photo.
An Arctic hare making good use of its camouflage. Colby Brokvist photo.
Polar bears awaiting the ice forming on the Hudson Bay. Colby Brokvist photo.
Polar bear season is winding down however the wildlife sightings are even better than ever. These fantastic shots from Natural Habitat Adventures guide Colby Brokvist are an indication that we still have some treasures left in this 2017 season!
We had a scare last week when the Hudson Bay was on the brink of freeze – up but then the south winds prevailed, allowing for the ice to be pushed north for the time being and thus keeping some energetic polar bears around for a bit longer. What a season it has been with so many fox sightings and even a wolverine.
Shaking off the winter cold. Colby Brokvist photo.
Shaking off the weekend…Monday is coming! Churchill polar bear season has about ten days left…the bears are still hanging around the region thanks to a south wind that forced the forming ice back north into the Hudson Bay. Keep it going for another week or so.
What a stellar shot of a cross fox with a lemming in its mouth by Konan Wendt is quite a catch for the photographer and the fox. A plethora of foxes have inhabited the northern tundra this season. A noticeable increase in Arctic and Cross foxes has allowed for some interesting shots like this one that have been absent for a few years.Polar bears have been the main draw here in Churchill though the fox population has rivaled the king of the Arctic this season. Enjoy!