OTTAWA – A Manitoba MP who served as chairman of the House of Commons transport committee until last fall will head up a rail company that hopes to ship western crude oil through northern Canada.
Merv Tweed was appointed Monday as president of Omnitrax Canada Inc., just hours after announcing his resignation from the Commons.
The Conservative MP for Brandon-Souris says he will resign his seat at the end of the month.
Tweed brings a “wealth of knowledge” to the rail company, Omnitrax chief executive Kevin Shuba said in a news release.
“(Tweed) will take our operations in Canada to a whole new level ensuring exciting growth of our business and enhancing Canadian communities,” Shuba said.
Two companies owned by Omnitrax — Hudson Bay Railway and Hudson Bay Port Co. — are hoping to ship crude oil by rail through the Port of Churchill, Canada’s only Arctic deep-water seaport.
The proposal is said to be an alternative to the controversial Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipeline plans, which have been met with escalating resistance from environmental critics and First Nations protesters.
Shipping oil by rail, however, is no less controversial, particularly in light of the recent Lac Megantic freight-train disaster in Quebec, where runaway tanker cars derailed and touched off fiery explosions that killed 47 people.
The two firms owned by Denver-based Omnitrax have scheduled a community meeting in Thompson, Man., for Aug. 15 to discuss a proposal to move unrefined petroleum products through the Port of Churchill.
The port is currently a main gateway for transportation of agricultural products to over 20 countries.
Its marine fuel terminal is also the largest of its kind in the Arctic.
While not specifically mentioning crude shipments, Tweed said Monday that he looks forward to helping Omnitrax expand its operations in the north.
“This is an enterprising organization that has served northern Canada well since 1997,” Tweed said in a statement.
“Through this role I will endeavour to ensure the next stage of growth so we can as a team extend and grow the services we provide.”
Tweed, 58, was elected chairman of House of Commons standing committee on transport, infrastructure and communities in 2006 and held the post until September of last year.
He was first elected as a member of Parliament in 2004 and was re-elected in each of three subsequent federal elections.
Previously, he was a three-term Progressive Conservative member of the Manitoba legislature and a municipal councillor and deputy reeve for the Rural Municipality of Brenda, Man.