It’s all talk so far, but the idea of a pipeline shunting western Canadian oil to the Port of Churchill has raised some eyebrows up north.
Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe announced the formation of the Pipeline Projects Assessment Committee (PPAC), a committee made up of Saskatchewan Party cabinet ministers tasked with evaluating possible pipeline projects in Saskatchewan. Four ministers, including trade and export development minister Jeremy Harrison, energy and resources minister Bronwyn Eyre, environment minister Dustin Duncan and finance minister Donna Harpauer, will form the committee.
One of the PPAC’s priorities, according to a Feb. 4 news release issued by the provincial government, are “projects expanding access south through the United States and projects that would create access through the port of Churchill.”
The last part of that statement, also mentioned in Saskatchewan’s provincial growth plan released last year, has perked up some northern Manitoban ears. The Manitoba government has not issued an official comment on the committee’s formation or the idea of a pipeline to Churchill, but regional figures have weighed in on the idea.
At the Feb. 4 meeting of Flin Flon city council, Huntley said he had heard of the news and the possibility that a pipeline between Saskatchewan and Churchill may run through Flin Flon.
“It just dropped on me on the news before I came to the meeting, but I saw the route and Flin Flon was right there. It was really quite encouraging,” he said.
“From a Flin Flon perspective, we would support it 100 per cent.”
Any discussion on a pipeline between Saskatchewan and Churchill has not been announced publicly, nor has any route for a possible pipeline been confirmed. Some media outlets based in Saskatchewan, including CTV Regina, have shown possible routes for a Saskatchewan-Churchill pipeline running from Kindersley, Sask. through Prince Albert and Flin Flon en route to Churchill.
No official announcement or confirmation of any pipeline being built through the territory by any corporate entity has taken place.
Discussion of a pipeline running to Churchill, where oil can be transported out by ship, has continued on and off for years. Any pipeline running to the port would need to be built on boggy, muskeg-filled land known for its instability from season to season. Some pundits have said Churchill would provide a key way for oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to be shipped to foreign markets without being sent to ports in British Columbia.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said in a press release that any construction of a pipeline to Churchill would require consultation from First Nations groups. The possible route shown by CTV would run over land occupied by both Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) in Saskatchewan and Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN), Dumas’ home reserve, along with other Indigenous land.
“First Nations in Manitoba must be involved, consulted and engaged in the process in a manner that respects their rights and interests. This includes considerations of First Nations’ interests in other infrastructure including the railway, and, if developed, their involvement that leads to positive economic benefits and prosperity,” said Dumas.
Since the rail line to Churchill was purchased in 2018, passenger rail service and shipments to the community have been restored. The rail line and port were purchased by a consortium named Arctic Gateway Group, consisting of a Toronto-based investment firm, Regina-based food and agriculture business AGT Missinippi Rail and a pair of northern Manitoba-based groups, One North and Missinippi Rail. The City of Flin Flon has an ownership stake in the group and its assets, purchasing shares in One North in 2018. Huntley was named as a board member and treasurer for Missinippi Rail in March 2019.