Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PM talks economic development in Iqaluit

Harper seems to concentrate upon asserting sovereignty and a greater military presence to back that up. Behind all this is the fact that with increased global warming and decreasing supply of essential commodities such as gas and oil and minerals the north will be ripe for exploitation. There have been complaints in the north that there was little consultation with northerners before policy was developed. No doubt Harper had already consulted with those who count in the south before he developed his policy. There are serious social welfare issues in the north and the need for a development plan that those in the north design. It is all very well to assert our sovereignty in the north and important in itself but policy should also be designed to reflect the concerns of northerners who will be most impacted by Harper's policies.

PM to talk economic development in Iqaluit
Updated Tue. Aug. 18 2009 9:58 AM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to discuss Arctic economic development at a rare cabinet meeting in Iqaluit on Tuesday, as part of his latest mission to boost Canada's presence in the region.
Harper arrived in Iqaluit on Monday evening, the first stop on a five-day-long trip to Canada's Arctic that he has made an annual event since becoming prime minister.
The prime minister will visit various Arctic communities while away from Ottawa, and he will observe military exercises in Frobisher Bay from the deck of the HMCS Toronto on Wednesday.
CTV's Rosemary Thompson said the not-so-secret purpose behind Harper's latest Arctic voyage is to show the world that Canada is serious about protecting its sovereignty.
"All this of course, is not just flag-waving, but to show Canadians and the world that Canada is an Arctic country," she told CTV's Canada AM from Iqaluit on Monday morning.
Thompson said Canada is facing a looming deadline four years from now, when Ottawa will have to let the UN know which parts of the Arctic belong to Canada.
"There is a serious issue that is behind this and that is the deadline in 2013, when all polar countries are going to have to submit their science to the UN...to show that they have a certain amount of territory in the Arctic," she said.
And Canada is not the only country in the midst of asserting its Arctic presence.
"The Americans are competing for part of this land, as are the Russians, the Danes and the Norwegians," Thompson said.
The strategic value of the Arctic is increasing as climate change takes it toll on the Far North. It is believed that as the polar ice caps melt away, the rich resources -- namely the region's oil and gas reserves -- trapped beneath the sea bed and the land, will be easier to access.
Despite what is on the line, Robert Huebert, the associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, said Canada may be falling behind in its efforts to declare its sovereignty in the Arctic.
"We're seeing efforts of this on a much larger scale -- to be quite frank -- by the Russians, Norwegians and Danes, but it's very important that Canada be showing that, in fact, it's getting the capabilities and is taking its North seriously," Huebert told Canada AM during an interview from Calgary.
All three countries are increasing their military capabilities in the Arctic, while Canada is playing catch-up, he said.
"We're probably further ahead in the context of an overall plan in terms of some of the aspects such as the Arctic strategy, but in terms of our actual capability to be at the Northern waters, we probably have a little ways to go to catch up to some of the other neighbours," Huebert said.
The government has previously announced plans to build six light icebreakers that will patrol the region and is considering building a deep-water port and warfare centre.
Canada has also been keeping a close eye on Russian expeditions to the Arctic, and has taken issue with Russian jets flying near its Arctic airspace.
With files from CTV's Canada AM and The Canadian Press

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