Rail company files NAFTA complaint
The owners of a broken rail line in northern Manitoba that has cut off the subarctic town of Churchill served notice Tuesday that they plan to file a complaint against the federal government under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The formal notice from Denver-based Omnitrax is the latest volley in an ongoing battle over who is responsible for the rail line left inoperable by spring flooding, leaving Churchill’s 900 residents facing higher food and fuel prices and lower tourism numbers.
Omnitrax said Ottawa’s decision to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on western wheat and barley in 2012 drastically cut grain shipments along the Hudson Bay Railway and through the Port of Churchill because the open market allowed producers to use southern rail lines and ports, which are Canadian-owned.
Omnitrax’s Canadian current president, Merv Tweed, was a backbencher in the Conservative government that made the decision.
“Article 1102 of the NAFTA requires that Canada provide to investors or investments of the other NAFTA Parties treatment that is ‘no less favourable’ than it provides to its own,” the 22-page notice document states.
“Through the steps it has taken to undercut the (the rail line) and its market position relative to Canadian-owned railways, the Government of Canada has de facto discriminated against Omnitrax to the benefit of its Canadian competitors.”