Timing is everything in politics. Merv Tweed has been the Member of Parliament for Brandon Souris since 2004. Like many of Stephen Harper’s backbenchers, he has been mostly ‘invisible’. He is leaving his seat at the end of the month, and few people outside of his riding would ever have noticed, were it not for the job that Merv is going to next.
He has been hired as the new CEO of Omnitrax Canada. That’s the Canadian arm of a Colorado company that owns the Hudson Bay rail line and the Port of Churchill. Until last fall, Merv Tweed chaired the Commons Transport Committee and had fairly cozy dealings with the Omnitrax people. There will undoubtedly be some huffing and puffing about conflict of interest, etc.
It might not have lasted more than one news cycle, until we learned about the company’s future plans. They want to use the wobbly rail line that crosses permafrost to ship lots more oil through Churchill. It sounds like a plan that has been in the works for quite some time.
Good old Merv was probably chatting up the Denver boys back in early July when disaster struck in a beautiful little Quebec town called Lac-Mégantic. In the aftermath of that tragedy which killed 47 people and poisoned the local lake, we learned that the shipment of crude oil by rail in Canada has increased dramatically in just a few short years, and we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Churchill has been a grain export terminal since 1927, but it has always been a struggle. Ships rarely get moving until the end of July, and the season only lasts about three months. Global warming is extending that a little, but ramping up oil shipments will make things very interesting.
If Merv Tweed was looking for a soft touch as heads towards retirement, he may have another thing coming. Like I said, timing is everything.
I’m Roger Currie