A proposal that Alberta purchase the port and use it as a shipping hub for oilsands crude has been met with resistance in the tight-knit community, said Dave Daley, president of the Churchill Chamber of Commerce.
Daley's criticisms follow a proposal from United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jeff Callaway that the Alberta government purchase the Manitoba port, positioned on the northwest shore of Hudson Bay, and ship oil there by pipeline.
For the majority of the population, the importance of preserving the environmental health of the region for tourists and residents alike outweighs any economic windfall a pipeline and tanker traffic might bring, Daley said in an interview Thursday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
"Everyone always wants jobs and security in that way but oil is pretty scary business, especially on the edge of Arctic," Daley said.
"As soon as that article hit town here there was a big uproar about 'Say no to oil.' "
At a news conference Tuesday in Edmonton, Callaway said tankers in Churchill could carry oil abroad and fetch a better price for Alberta, which has been running multibillion-dollar deficits in recent years.
"This has so many benefits not just for Alberta, but for Western Canada and Canada broadly," he said outside the legislature. "It's a small, small investment to make for prosperity in Western Canada."
The province would have to buy the port from its private owners, fix the railway going to it and build a pipeline as well, he said.
A road would also have to be built to the remote community, added Callaway, who is a former president of the Wildrose Party and a senior advisor with a global wealth management firm in Calgary.
Callaway said the cost of fixing up the grain terminals and the rail line would run about $20 million.
However, a recent engineering study done by the port's current owner, Denver-based Omnitrax, estimates the cost between $20 and $60 million
'Pretty scary business': Churchill in uproar over Alberta politician's proposal to purchase port - Edmonton - CBC News