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Ashtons and the NDP attempt to sidetrack Northern development in Port of Churchill test case

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(CRC)—Steve Ashton, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation in the Manitoba NDP government of Greg Selinger, is embroiled in a fight that would curtail rail freight being delivered to Canada’s only Arctic port, in Churchill. The outcome of this battle (presently restricted to a war of words in the media) will greatly affect the future development of Canada’s Northern economy.

By forbiding railroads to carry oil to the port on Hudson Bay, the Minister is siding with the back-to-nature agenda of the greenies who are generally against resource extraction of any kind and against the policy of transporting oil, either by pipelines or railroads. A viewpoint which is irrational and one that is certainly not shared by a majority of Manitobans and Canadians.

Most vocal at the moment in opposing the Minister are the owners of the Port of Churchill and the Hudson Bay Railroad, OmniTRAX Canada, who are looking to increasing both the rail traffic to the Port of Churchill and increasing cargo tonnage for ships carrying oil and grain shipments from the Hudson Bay port facility to various international destinations.

Any genuine growth in Canada’s North would have to include increased trafic on the northern trade corridor, an area between Manitoba and Nunavut, that constitutes a vital link to Canada’s North. The Port of Churchill itself was designed to play a large role in the Arctic Bridge sea route linking Churchill to Russian ports.

Ashton was formerly (1992) provincial Minister of Conservation and, in 1993, was named Minister of Water Stewardship for Manitoba, a first in Canada. It is not known if it was this background that has rendered the Minister inimical to any genuine Northern development strategy that aims to bring about a scientific, technological and industrial culture to Canada’s Northern communities.

In the present national debate, Minister Ashton has stooped very low in his attempts to frighten Manitoba’s Northern communities by drawing an unwarranted parallel to the Lac Megantic rail tragedy, which has nothing to do with the case of the Omnitrax railroad to the Port of Churchill. But Lac Megantic has everything to do with the deregulation and cost cutting that Ed Burkhardt learned and practiced in England, during the Thatcher and John Major period, when he bought the remnants of the privatized British Rail and began cutting personnel and rail maintenance, as was exposed by prize-winning British filmaker Ken Loach in his film The Navigators.

In point of fact, Steve Ashton’s position as provincial Minister of Infrastructure and Transport does not authorize him to stop rail shipments of oil to the port of Churchill, since the railroad operates under federal jurisdiction.

Niki Ashton, the daughter of Minister Steve Ashton and the NDP MP for Churchill, Man. put on Facebook yesterday the following presumptuous message: `As MP for Churchill, I stand with First Nations, Northern people and the Province in opposition to the Omnitrax plan`.

Will the NDP become Canada’s only political party that rejects actual progress for Northern communities? Where will the NDP stand when Canada and the United States eventually sign a treaty agreement to begin work on the NAWAPAXXI project? What will the NDP have to say when construction begins on the AL-CAN railroad that will eventually run in the Canadian Arctic and across the tunnel proposed by the Russian government to link the North American continent to Asia through the Bering Strait?

We are confident Manitobans, First Nations people, the Inuits and Canadians generally will all wish to adopt the NAWAPAXXI policy as a gateway to a brighter future rather than the present low technology, and the deadly low energy flux density policies being presently proposed by large segments of today’s political class.

With the irrigation and managed water flow of the NAWAPA design, both First Natiions and Canadians will begin to transform Canada’s land area, including its climate and weather. This will set a scientific precedent for other nations and people to follow : a case of mankind’s conscious ability to rigourously manage a significant region of the Biosphere, while increasing the productivity of both mankind and the Biosphere itself.