Canadian Arctic needs jolt
It’s time for the Canadian government to develop a new energy and trade policy tied to the Arctic based on public infrastructure planning and federal funding, instead of falling even further behind the pace of development in other northern jurisdictions, says an international affairs think tank.
John Higginbotham, a senior fellow at Carleton University and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, said there is “just no sign of the vision and long-term political energy required to bring (Canada) up in any way to close the gap that’s emerging with Russia and Norway as the Arctic Ocean opens.”
The Centre held a conference in Ottawa in February that involved the premiers of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut and top officials from Alaska and Greenland to draw attention to how far North America is lagging behind Europe and Asia in developing Arctic resources.
He said that in Norway, “the North is the first thing they think about in the morning and the last thing they think of at night. It’s probably the same for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.”
But there is no consistent Arctic policy in Canada where “no one worries about long-term economic development and making the kinds of investments we need,” he said.
Higginbotham noted that Russia is building LNG facilities in its Arctic and using ice-breaking tankers to deliver the LNG to southern markets, while also investing in a commercial shipping route through the Northwest Passage.
He said that plans to build a road into mineral-rich deposits in Canada’s North have remained idle for decades, although the federal government is weighing a request for C$365 million to help fund that project, while internet access throughout much of the Arctic is primitive by southern standards.
Higginbotham said the five-year moratorium imposed by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Arctic offshore energy development does not help.
NWT Premier Bob McLeod said that attending recent conferences in the Arctic, including Iceland, has driven home to him that high latitudes do not have to limit investment.
- GARY PARK