Is Harper serious about asserting Canada's legitimate claim over Arctic waters, or was last week's jaunt to the North just a PR stunt? Harper's sovereignty pitch looks like it's heading straight for troubled waters.
The Tory plan
To militarize the North by building a deep-water military port at Nanisivik and an army training centre at Resolute Bay, and by spending $7 billion on up to eight icebreaking military patrol boats
Why it should be put on ice
It's misguided. Who the hell are we preparing to defend ourselves against? The Russians, who recently staked their claim on the ocean floor? Or the Americans, who never ask our permission to navigate our waters in the North? The promised icebreakers are useless in the high Arctic, since they're only equipped to crash through relatively soft ice.
What Canada should be doing
Asserting our economic sovereignty over the region. The greatest challenges facing the North are social and economic. Why aren't the feds providing funds to extend northern runways, as northern governments have been asking? This could be a boon to ecotourism.
We've barely scraped the surface when it comes to staking our legal claim to the continental shelf extending into the Arctic Ocean. Under the UN Convention On The Law Of The Sea, we have until 2013 to complete seismic mapping, but our scientists are way behind schedule, when we could be finding ways to protect the environment in the North instead of spending billions on useless "slushbreakers."
The question that has to be asked
Is Arctic sovereignty being used as a pretext, like the war in Afghanistan, to hand the Tories' friends lucrative military contracts? The percentage of public dollars spent on "non-competitive" military contracts (including the recently announced icebreakers) has doubled in the last two years, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study No Bang For The Buck: Military Contracting And Public Accountability.