Category Archives: agriculture

Saskatchewan Legislature To Hold Special Debate on Proposed Federal Carbon Tax

Saskatchewan Legislature To Hold Special Debate on Proposed Federal Carbon Tax

Released on October 24, 2016

The Saskatchewan government intends to introduce and debate a motion today to oppose the national carbon tax proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to support the provincial government’s climate change plan outlined last week by Premier Brad Wall.

Wall said he hopes the motion gets the unanimous support of the Legislature, which will send a strong message to Ottawa about Saskatchewan’s opposition to the national carbon tax.

“The federal carbon tax will hit Saskatchewan’s economy and Saskatchewan workers particularly hard, given the importance of the resource, mining and agriculture sectors in this province,” Wall said.   “Now is not the time for Ottawa to force a job-killing carbon tax on our province.  I hope members on both sides of the House can stand together and send a clear message to Ottawa – ‘no’ to a national carbon tax.”

The motion reads:

“That this Assembly supports the Government of Saskatchewan’s position on climate change as outlined in the Climate Change White Paper released on October 18, 2016, and further;

“That this Assembly opposes the Federal Government’s plan to impose a national carbon tax.”

Recent polls have shown that at least 70 per cent of Saskatchewan residents support the provincial government’s position and oppose the national carbon tax.

“I hope all MLAs will vote to represent the view of the strong majority of Saskatchewan people on this important issue,” Wall said.

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For more information, contact:

Kathy Young
Executive Council
Regina
Phone: 306-787-0425
Email: kathy.young@gov.sk.ca
Cell: 306-526-8927

 

Wall wants to solve the problem, not create taxes

See also Premier Wall’s Outline On Saskatchewan’s Plan for Climate Change

wall-fb-oct-18-2016-coal-cdn-sk-ghgcoal-cdn-sk-ghg

Wall’s plan keeps focus on carbon capture research

  • 19 Oct 2016
  • The StarPhoenix
  • WILL CHABUN

Wall’s plan keeps focus on carbon capture research

 

Premier Brad Wall’s prescription for climate change includes a hearty dose of adaptation — like heat-resistant crops that “effectively fix greenhouse gases to the soil” — and also more federal money for research and for those most affected by climate change, like remote northern communities.

But the focus of his plan, unveiled Tuesday in Regina, is research in Canada on “next-generation” carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to clean up emissions from the more than 2,400 new coal-fired power plants that last year’s Paris climate change conference was told are being planned or under construction around the world.

Wall pulled no punches about the seriousness of climate change, but kept up an attack that Ottawa’s carbon tax is the wrong response.

The worldwide angle dominated the speech by Wall, who said the greenhouse gases (GHGs) generated by new coal-fired plants in countries like China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines would more than wipe out any gains from carbon reduction in Canada and other western countries.

That’s why “we’d better find the technology that will work in a costefficient way,” he said. Wall continues to have special ire for Ottawa’s plan for an “ill-considered, rash and risky” mandatory carbon price or tax that he claims would harm Saskatchewan and thousands of its citizens “in tradeexposed, carbon-intensive industries that are especially vulnerable,” citing the examples of farm families or those with a breadwinner at Regina’s Evraz steelworks.

“We’re all concerned about climate change, but we’d better pick the right fight,” said Wall, who repeatedly cited SaskPower’s plan to get 50 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

He said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a phone conversation two weeks ago, “deflected” questions about the carbon’s tax’s economic impact on Canada or Saskatchewan without offering an answer.

Speculating on why Ottawa suddenly launched the carbon tax/ price, he said, “I’m concerned that the government, and others, want something to make themselves feel better.”

Wall added: “Saskatchewan people want to contribute to this country economically and in every way, including the fight against climate change. But we will defend our interests. We will defend our economy that pays for the quality of life we want for all Saskatchewan people and we will fight for our interest, in the court of public opinion and, if need be, in the courts of the land.”

Stating he wants to change the conversation around climate change to adaptation and technology “that actually will make a difference,” the premier wants Ottawa’s own spending in this field to double.

He also wants a redeployment of its existing $2.65-billion commitment to help other countries to cut emissions brought home to Canadian labs and to focus on projects with “the potential to reduce emissions worldwide with technologies like CCS and small nuclear reactors.”

He seeks Ottawa’s recognition of the role of “carbon sinks” — the carbon stored in Canada’s forests, wetlands and farmland.

Also needed from Ottawa is word on whether it will count Saskatchewan’s past investment on CCS here toward its carbon price, said Wall, who in a post-speech session with reporters talked about the possibility of a follow-on to the CCS project at Boundary Dam near Estevan.

And when the resource economy strengthens, he pledged a provincial fund — supported by a levy on large emitters and insulated from general government revenues — for development of new technologies and innovation to cut GHGs.

 

 

 

Premier Wall’s Outline On Saskatchewan’s Plan for Climate Change

Premier Wall Outlines Saskatchewan Plan for Climate Change

Released on October 18, 2016

White Paper is found HERE

Premier Brad Wall today released Saskatchewan’s White Paper on Climate Change, outlining an alternative approach to Prime Minister Trudeau’s national carbon tax.

“There are three approaches we can take to fighting climate change – adaptation, innovation and taxation,” Wall said.   “Of the three, a carbon tax will do the most harm to the economy while having the least positive impact on reducing emissions.

“We should be focusing our efforts on innovation and adaptation, not taxation.”

Wall noted that there are more than 2,400 new coal-fired power plants planned or under construction around the world, according to a report released last December at the Paris climate change summit.  Those plants alone will emit 6.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year – nearly nine times Canada’s annual Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

“This is why innovation – developing technology that can be used around the world to reduce emissions – is the logical response if we actually want to solve the problem,” Wall said.  “In Saskatchewan, we’re focused on making a difference in that battle through the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) that could dramatically reduce the emissions from those 2,400 new coal-fired plants.”

Wall’s plan for action by the Saskatchewan and Canadian government includes:

  • Calling on the federal government to double funding for climate change adaptation research, planning and infrastructure, targeted specifically at areas affected by the impact of climate change, like remote northern communities;
  • In Saskatchewan, supporting the Crop Development Centre and the Global Institute for Food Security as they continue working on new crop varieties that are better able to withstand climate change and that effectively fix GHGs to the soil;
  • Partnering with the federal government through SaskPower and the International CCS Knowledge Centre to develop the next generation of CCS technology for coal plants to enable cost-effective global deployment of post-combustion technology and securing recognition for investments made by the people of Saskatchewan through SaskPower in CCS technology;
  • Calling on the federal government to redeploy its $2.65 billion, five-year commitment to developing countries to deal with climate change by adding it to the existing $2 billion federal Low Carbon Economy Trust and use that funding for research and innovation in Canada that has the potential to reduce emissions worldwide, with technologies like CCS and small nuclear reactors;
  • Increasing SaskPower’s renewables like wind and solar to 50 per cent of its generating capacity by 2030;
  • Pushing for recognition of emission-reducing carbon offsets, like hydro exports from BC, Manitoba and Quebec, and the carbon stored in Canada’s vast forests, wetlands and farmland; and
  • When the resource economy strengthens, moving ahead with plans for a fund supported by a levy on large emitters, with the fund’s expenditures limited to new technologies and innovation to reduce GHGs and not for general revenue.

Wall said these actions represent a much better approach than a carbon tax.

“Make no mistake – a carbon tax will harm Saskatchewan,” Wall said.  “Thousands of people make their living in trade-exposed, carbon-intensive industries that are especially vulnerable.  Energy, mining, agriculture – the backbone of Saskatchewan’s economy – will be hit hard by a carbon tax.

“Saskatchewan people want to contribute to this country economically and in every way, including the fight against climate change, but we will defend our interests.  We will defend our economy that pays for the quality of life we want for all Saskatchewan people and we will fight for our interests, in the court of public opinion and if need be, in the courts of the land.”

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For more information, contact:

Kathy Young
Executive Council
Regina
Phone: 306-787-0425
Email: kathy.young@gov.sk.ca
Cell: 306-526-8927

Wall offers alternative climate change plan

  • 18 Oct 2016
  • The StarPhoenix
  • C. FRASER

Wall offers alternative climate change plan

Carbon capture investments expected to play major role

Premier Brad Wall will make a case for his plan to fight climate change Tuesday, and offer an alternative approach to the one being put forward by the federal government.

He will make a presentation at the Conexus Arts Centre as part of a Regina and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon series.

Little is known about what Wall will outline in the plan outside of its general thesis, which the premier has said focuses on the need for a three-pronged approach to address climate change in the province.

In the wake of the federal government announcement that a carbon price would be imposed on the provinces in 2018, Wall told reporters the report — being called a white paper — will focus on three main topics.

The first is reducing the number of domestic emissions in the province. According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Saskatchewan’s emissions of greenhouse gases increased nine per cent between 2005 and 2014. Much of that increase is due to more oil and gas activity in the province.

Wall is also expected to argue provinces need to start adapting to climate change more readily. In speaking to reporters, the premier has used, as an example, the mandate given by his government to SaskPower to move to 50 per cent renewable energy sources by 2030.

His white paper — a term used when describing formal government reports or proposals — will likely also explore funding technological solutions to address climate issues. Notably for Wall, that includes investing in technology such as SaskPower’s $1.5-billion carbon-capture project at Boundary Dam 3, which according to the province is providing electricity to about 100,000 homes 10 times cleaner than other coal units.

The plant has been in operation since 2014. The oft-criticized project is working now after many delays.

It is expected Wall’s plan for addressing climate change in the province will be a stark contrast from the plan being put forward by the federal government, which will see Ottawa establish a “floor price” of $10 a tonne on carbon pollution in 2018 before rising to $50 in 2022.

The premier has long fought against a carbon tax and has been criticized by environmentalists and the opposition NDP for a lack of an alternative plan. With carbon pricing now inevitable, Wall’s plan may be too little too late. Only time will tell how much of the white paper will become the foundation for legislation before the federal government imposes a plan on the province, as they have threatened to do.

Wall said the white paper was in its final draft stages when the federal carbon announcement was made earlier this month.

 

 

 

Are ‘energy-entitled’ Canadians shirking their duty?

 

An open plea to Canadians: get more interested in energy matters that shape your lives

Are ‘energy-entitled’ Canadians shirking their duty?

By Bill Whitelaw

Oct. 17, 2016, 2:58 p.m.

http://www.jwnenergy.com/article/2016/10/open-plea-canadians-get-more-interested-energy-matters-shape-your-lives/

 

Civics is the study of the theoretical and practical aspects of citizenship, its rights and duties; the duties of citizens to each other as members of a political body and to the government.

So says Wikipedia. And whatever you may think of the online encyclopedia, that definition is one that would accord with most Canadians who take more than a passing interest in their relationship to the affairs of government and politics. In other words, what they would take to be their “civic duty,” however loosely defined.

Two words stand out: rights and duties .

Canadians are prone to squawk loudly about the first and remain curiously silent about the second.

Yet rights and duties are inextricably bound up with each other; they are in fact simply opposite — not opposing — sides of the same coin. They work together because in many respects one requires the other to function in a self-fulfilling reciprocal relationship.

Here’s the puzzling energy paradox: Canadians will argue that they have a right to clean, abundant and low-cost energy; rarely will they be curious about the duties required to support that right. Put bluntly, and no one is brave enough to say this out loud: Canadians in reality are “energy entitled.” They really have no clue about the real costs — social, political, economic and even moral — of a sustainable energy economy.

It’s downright confounding.

That’s why in Canada we need a thoughtful dialogue on the notion of energy civics — the notion that Canadians need to be far more actively involved in the way energy policy is shaped and grounded in everyday life. Indeed, the lack of focus on this aspect of civic life in Canada more generally is what has landed us, as civil society, in what is a most decidedly uncivil approach to energy discourses. A civil society, of course, is one in which citizens are bound together — and function together — based on common interests.

Energy in theory should be one of those collective interests. But in practice, it’s not.

Canadians for the most part do not understand they have a duty to be informed about energy dynamics. Politicians, media, industry, NGOs — all the actors in our energy drama — have done an incredibly abysmal job in pressuring Canadians to be more energy literate and energy fluent and therefore more active actors.

The consequence of that ignorance is manifold; the most obvious symptom is the prevailing polarization in important discussions that should be binding Canadians together — not tearing the nation apart.

Take the carbon dynamic. If there ever was a conversation Canadians should have knowledgeably and rationally, with each other, it is about how best to work through the challenges (and opportunities) of creating a sustainable low-carbon economic model.

As Canadians we clearly think we have a right to a healthy environment. But turn to talk about the duties required to make that happen and things become a little murkier. The dynamics of duty are complex, to be sure, and there is no simple prescription in a one-size-fits-all model for all Canadians.

But there is one common foundational plank. At its most basic level, and in a civics context, that baseline obligation of duty is to be somewhat informed, certainly at a level above what most Canadians could legitimately claim to be currently in regards to energy.

But here we are, embroiled in carbon conflicts with 95 per cent of the population functionally illiterate on the topic. The result is political polarization (think federal-provincial tensions and industry-NGO divisiveness as but two examples) and an ignorant populace whose views ought to be shaping the discussions.

Instead, politicians move forward on sometimes fallacious assumptions of what voters ought to want. Activists do exactly the same thing: agitation on a belief system of what folks ought to want.

That oughtness flows directly from a lack of duty, for that lack of duty to be informed, and to participate in civil society, creates a civics vacuum. And we all know politicians and activists abhor such vacuums. And in industry, we rarely recognize the vacuums proactively and typically show up late to the party and are surprised to find the dance card full.

The result is an industry proclivity to lecture Canadians on how a robust energy sector facilitates and enables high-quality standards of living. It does little to compel Canadians to be more energy conscious — and to activate their consciences to be more dutiful in claiming the right to access energy.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has in place a terrific program that focuses this idea: Canada’s Energy Citizens. It’s the perfect platform from which to continue and enhance the conversations that continue to compel Canadians to take a far more active role to be engaged than they have to date been.

Canadians need to know that citizenship around all aspects of life — not just energy — provides rights only when duties are fulfilled.

If not, we can only expect an energy future exponentially more miserable than we’re experiencing now.

 

 

Premier Wall: The level of disrespect shown by the Prime Minister and his government today is stunning

Facebook post by:
Brad Wall
1:45 pm
October 3, 2016

I cannot believe that while the country’s environment ministers were meeting on a so-called collaborative climate change plan, the Prime Minister stood in the House of Commons and announced a carbon tax unilaterally.

This meeting is not worth the CO2 emissions it took for environment ministers to get there.

The level of disrespect shown by the Prime Minister and his government today is stunning. This is a betrayal of the statements made by the Prime Minister in Vancouver this March. And this new tax will damage our economy.

The bottom line is that the Saskatchewan economy – already hurting from a downturn in commodity prices – will be one of the hardest hit by a new federal carbon tax because of our trade-exposed resource industries.

The carbon tax will siphon over $2.5 billion from Saskatchewan’s economy when fully implemented and make our province a less competitive place to do business. For example, we have no idea what the U.S. government will do when it comes to carbon pricing. Yet our federal government is ploughing ahead with a carbon tax apparently unconcerned about the potential impact on our energy industry, which competes with North Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma. It’s not difficult to foresee an exodus of oil rigs south of the border, and fewer people working in Saskatchewan’s already struggling oil and gas sector.

Saskatchewan industries will feel the impact. So, too, will Saskatchewan families. We estimate the carbon tax will cost the average family $1,250 a year. Our farm families will be among the hardest hit. The carbon tax will impede Saskatchewan’s continuing efforts to export high quality food products to global customers.

As I have said many times before, we are having the wrong conversation in Canada. The national focus on carbon pricing holds the lowest potential for reducing emissions, while potentially doing the greatest harm to the Canadian economy. We produce less than two percent of global GHG emissions. Whatever impact the federal carbon tax will have on Canada’s emissions, global GHG emissions will continue to rise because of the developing world’s reliance on coal-fired electricity. Canada can make an important contribution in the battle against climate change by developing made-in-Canada solutions in areas like power production, transportation, natural resource development, manufacturing and construction.

In the coming weeks, Saskatchewan will investigate all options to mitigate the impact of one of the largest national tax increase in Canadian history.

__________________

Here is the actual Facebook posting:

fb-brad-wall-oct-3-2016

 

 

 

Russia’s youngest billionaire and fertiliser

 

A Young Russian Billionaire Plants the Seeds of Future Success

Yuliya Fedorinova and Alexander Sazonov

September 29, 2016 — 5:01 PM CST

Updated on September 30, 2016 — 5:47 AM CST

BLOOMBERG

The stealth-like hull of Andrey Melnichenko’s superyacht is designed to cut through waves leaving barely any wake. Costing an estimated $300 million, the ship uses a unique submarine shape to remain stable in rough seas. Interiors combine Baccarat-crystal bling with fingerprint-reading gadgetry to unlock cabins.

The swanky boat reflects the same eye for innovation and high-tech detail that Melnichenko, 44, is now focusing on the fertilizer business that’s helped make him one of Russia’s youngest billionaires. With revenue dropping because of a global surplus and weaker farm income, the tycoon is remaking EuroChem Group AG into one of the few companies in the world using micro-organisms and polymers to tailor-make products so farmers can grow stronger crops.

“We aim to transform ourselves from a manufacturer of cheap commodities into a company that creates and promotes high-tech products,” Melnichenko said during an interview in Moscow.

He owns 90 percent of EuroChem, a producer of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers with assets in Russia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Belgium, China and Brazil, and plans to start potash operations next year.

The company has already shifted about a fifth of its sales to the higher-value specialty fertilizers, its premium product, and seeks to increase that share further. Among them are inhibitor products that allow slow release of nutrients into crops.

If Melnichenko’s ambitions for change are uncommon in a Russian resource company, so was his route to commodity riches. Too young to gain from the 1990s privatizations that made many oligarch’s fortunes, he began trading currency with two friends while a physics student at Moscow State University.

After the Soviet Union fell, the trio registered themselves as a bank, before Melnichenko began buying assets including in thermal coal and fertilizers. He sold his banking interests in 2007, just before the global financial crisis, allowing him to focus on those industrial investments.

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Melnichenko’s Philippe Starck-designed superyacht.

Photographer: Leon Neal/Getty Images

In 2012, the acquisition of a BASF SE plant in Antwerp by EuroChem for 830 million euros ($930 million) brought in new technologies.

Another part of his strategy is to make the Russian company a one-stop shop for farmers by selling seeds produced by international producers, testing soil and plants and offering advice on improving conditions and what crops to grow. The group is expanding its distribution network and this week announced that it will open new distribution center in Hungary.

“The company is diversified and starting to provide high-tech specialty fertilizers,” said Elena Sakhnova, an analyst at VTB Capital. “It has gained a large distribution network, while having low costs.”

Such efforts, and a focus on developing higher quality thermal coal at SUEK Ltd., Russia’s largest producer, aim to increase resilience to roiling markets in recent years. Melnichenko, the nation’s eighth-richest man with a fortune of about $10.3 billion, ranked as high as fourth at the end of 2013 before a slump in commodity prices, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index data. He’s the youngest Russian on the index’s global top 400 list.

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A fertilizer glut has cut prices 20 percent to 30 percent this year. That helped drive EuroChem’s second-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization down almost 40 percent and its net debt to 2.39 times long-term earnings, from 1.56 a year before.

Grand Designs

But just as the radical design of Melnichenko’s yacht won over early doubters, the billionaire has managed to keep EuroChem’s creditors on side with his uncompromising plans to expand in spite of weaker markets.

The company remains committed to spending more than $6 billion to build two Russian potash mines producing 8 million metric tons of the fertilizer a year, a 10th of current world output. That’s as potash prices sank to a decade low this year. Plans for an ammonia and urea plant in Louisiana are still on track, Chief Financial Officer Andrey Ilyin said last month.

It helps that EuroChem’s costs are competitive, even more so after the depreciation in the Russian ruble. Its mining costs will be below $40 a ton, compared with $90-$100 a ton for Canada’s Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. and the U.S.’s Agrium Inc., according to estimates by VTB Capital.

“I am not worried about short-term volatility, especially as I see our advantages over competitors,” Melnichenko said in the interview. The billionaire reinforced his commitment to EuroChem on Wednesday with an offer of $1 billion in perpetual funding from his AIM Capital finance unit. That figure may reach $1.5 billion, the company said.

The producer this month gained an $800 million pre-export loan from 12 international banks, partly to refinance its debt. It’s planning to fund a repurchase of borrowings with a new sale of Eurobonds, which it is marketing now. The company, which has to repay $1.4 billion next year, will bring debt below $3 billion within eight months from $3.3 billion now, and pare investment and net working capital.

“Further market weakness would increase risks,” Egor Fedorov, an analyst at ING Bank NV in Moscow, said by phone. “But so far, the lenders still believe in the company and are ready to work with it.”

 

 

Sask. seeing sluggish growth: study

 

  • 20 Sep 2016
  • The StarPhoenix
  • BRUCE JOHNSTONE

Sask. seeing sluggish growth: study

Small-, medium-sized companies struggle after oil-price collapse

From 2001 to 2013, the number of businesses in Saskatchewan grew by just under 14 per cent, significantly below the national growth rate average of 20 per cent, according to a new study by Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

“Saskatchewan did OK, (with) an increase of 14 per cent,’’ said Pierre Cleroux, chief economist with the BDC. “But that’s between 2001 and 2013. Over the last two years, the situation has changed a little bit.’’

With the collapse of oil prices during the last two years, Saskatchewan business growth has, if anything, deteriorated, Cleroux added. “These are the most recent data from StatsCan, but the situation is not as good right now.’’

And the slow growth of Saskatchewan businesses is symptomatic of a deeper malaise within Canadian business, with small- and mediumsized companies struggling to grow and only one in 1,000 businesses growing past the 100-employee mark during the same 13-year period, BDC said in the study released Tuesday.

Canadian small- and mid-sized companies are experiencing slow-to-no-growth, with far fewer businesses expanding in size compared with 15 years ago. Only a tiny fraction of small businesses — 0.10 per cent or one in 1,000 — grew past the 100-employee mark over the study period. That represents a 40 per cent drop from the 0.18 per cent of small businesses that did so in 2001.

Mid-sized firms (with 100 to 499 employees) also are struggling, the study said. They made up less than one per cent of the total number of Canadian companies in 2013, a drop from 1.04 per cent in 2001.

“Generally speaking, business growth is slower. There’s not as many new business startups and not as many Canadians starting businesses as before,’’ Cleroux said.

“The smaller businesses aren’t becoming mid-sized firms. They’re staying smaller than before (2001),’’ Cleroux said. “The growth in the startups of manufacturing firms is actually negative.”

The only segment that’s growing is “micro-enterprises” — companies with one to four employees — which saw their portion of the total go up, albeit by less than one per cent — from 75.66 to 76.55 per cent — between 2001 and 2013.

Cleroux said research by BDC and other organizations links the decline in startups and growth among small- and medium-sized enterprises, in large measure, to demographic changes in Canada’s population.

“The most important reason is the aging population,” Cleroux said.

“Most people start a business between the age of 25 and 45; this group of people in Canada is not growing. The group that is growing is 65 and over.”

Moreover, young people are not as entrepreneurial as they were 20 or 30 years ago. “Young people are not starting as many businesses as they did in the past. The job market is relatively good, so maybe they don’t see (entrepreneurship) to be as good an option as a job,” Cleroux said.

“We used to champion entrepreneurship more in the past. Maybe we haven’t done a good job over the last few years to show young people that being an entrepreneur is actually a great option in terms of a career. It’s not for everybody, but for many people, it’s been a very good career path.’’

Cleroux said BDC has identified three main factors that differentiate growing companies from their slower counterparts:

Invest in productivity. “Businesses that are more productive than others are actually able to grow faster than other businesses.’’ Productivity per worker is nearly 30 per cent greater at large companies than at mid-sized ones.

Invest in fixed assets. “In an age when technology is changing so rapidly, companies that are growing more invest more than others.” Fixed assets at mid-sized businesses are worth $51,000 per employee versus $100,000 in large companies.

Diversify geographically. “The most successful companies are exporting outside their provinces and the country.’’

 

 

Port of Churchill – Development Timeline

  • 27 Aug 2016
  • National Post – (Latest Edition)
  • Sources: Port of Churchill; Federal- Provincial Task Force on the Future of Churchill; Postmedia files; Winnipeg Free Press; Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench

TIMELINE

1910: The government decides to establish an 820- km railway line from The Pas to the Manitoba shoreline of Hudson Bay, where a deepwater port would be built to export Prairie grain. Fort Nelson is chosen.

1918: Railway construction to Fort Nelson is abandoned because of wartime priorities and shortages.

1926- 29: The railway is redirected to Churchill, where construction begins on seaport and grain- handling infrastructure. The port is completed in 1928, and regular train service begins a year later. Canadian National Railway operates what becomes known as the Hudson Bay Railway.

1950s-1960s: Port activities diversify, with commodities such as honey, lumber and livestock hauled by rail for export, and imports such as automobiles, machinery and chemicals arriving by freighter.

1977: The port exports a record 777,500 tonnes of grain, all of it arranged by the Canadian What Board (CWB), a Crown corporation established to market Prairie grain. The Soviet Union emerges as a major customer.

1988: Because of drought conditions, the port exports just 50,000 tonnes of grain.

1996- 97: Denver- based OmniTRAX Ltd. acquires more than 1,000 km of CNR railway in Manitoba, including the line to Churchill. Ottawa contributes $ 14 million to complete the deal and sells the port of to OmniTrax for $ 1. It also agrees to spend $ 28 million on port improvements, with Manitoba kicking in $ 6 million.

2002- 03: OmniTRAX says the rail and port operations can’t continue without firm shipping commitments from the CWB. Churchill mayor Mike Spence says the company may not open the summer shipping season. The federal and Manitoba governments each hand over $ 900,000 for port and track maintenance.

2012: The CWB is reorganized and no longer monopolizes grain sales through ports such as Churchill. Shipments begin to slide.

2013: The Federal- Provincial Task Force on the Future of Churchill says since 1997, Ottawa and Manitoba have spent or committed $ 197 million “to benefit, directly or indirectly, both the privately owned port and rail line leading to it, and the Community of Churchill.”

2014: OmniTRAX abandons plans to haul oil to the port by rail.

2015: OmniTRAX negotiates but does not finalize the sale of its railway and port to a consortium of Manitoba First Nations. The province contributes another $ 800,000 for capital improvements at the port.

April 2016: OmniTRAX files a civil claim in Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, alleging Manitoba, then- premier Greg Selinger and the then-transportation minister unlawfully disclosed to third parties confidential information about the rail and port, jeopardizing their potential sale.

July 2016: OmniTRAX announces it has suspended the summer shipping season.

August 2016: OmniTRAX says Manitoba is contractually required to spend another $ 1.74 million for capital improvements on the port, adding that payment “is still outstanding.”

 

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