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Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
September 2019

Vol. 24, No.37 Week of September 22, 2019

Waiting for Arctic plan

Gary Park

for Petroleum News

Election season is in full swing in Canada, heading towards voting day on Oct. 21, when the legacy of four years in power by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be put to the test.

On the list of issues that will come under scrutiny one that rates high is the failure so far of the Liberal government to deliver on its promise of an Arctic Policy Framework, a comprehensive strategy for Canada’s North at a time when the Arctic ice cap is shrinking in both area and intensity at a staggering rate, accompanied by economic and military threats in circumpolar regions.

The growing concern among Arctic leaders is a continued slippage of Canada’s ranking among Arctic nations, notably the United States, Russia and Denmark, and what has happened to Trudeau’s pledge to develop an Arctic Policy Framework, a document that was supposed to be made public this summer.

Amid reports that a scheduled announcement has been scrapped it is unclear whether the policy will be released before the election.

Even though Arctic leaders and polar policy experts have credited the Trudeau administration with making significant investments in the region some warn that those moves could be undermined unless they are supported by an overall strategy.

Politicians in Canada’s three territorial governments - Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut - and leaders of indigenous communities have not made things easy for the federal government because of rifts within their ranks over economic development.

Arctic road study

But not all hopes for Canada’s North have been dashed, starting with a pledge from Transport Minister Marc Garneau to provide C$50 million for preliminary studies and planning for an all-weather road from Yellowknife in the NWT to a deepwater port on Nunavut’s central Arctic coast.

The total cost of a road, covering 420 miles, and port has been estimated at C$1 billion.

NWT Industry Minister Wally Schumann said the move will “change the economy of Canada,” allowing construction materials to be carried more cheaply and easily by trucks.

It will also bolster Canada’s claims to sovereignty in the High Arctic.

Currently, goods and materials are either flown in or shipped on barges that arrive only once a year.

A new road would also open up the Slave Geological Province that is estimated to hold C$45 billion worth of natural resources.

The road would also provide cheaper, more environmentally friendly power to industrial projects and communities.

50 years of lobbying

Lobbying for an overland connection to Nunavut has lasted more than 50 years, gaining its greatest boost when a 90-mile connection from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea - the first year-round route from southern Canada to the Arctic coast - was opened two years ago.

John Higginbotham, a senior fellow at Ottawa’s Carleton University, said in a Globe and Mail a national Arctic investment plan with a strong maritime emphasis could enable communities and regional governments to flourish in a new, tough, competitive environment.

Instead, he said in a blunt assessment there has been no Arctic leadership from Trudeau, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland or other senior cabinet ministers.

Higginbotham said the Trudeau administration has “lacked the vision, discipline and machinery to produce a long-term plan for serious Canadian Arctic economic development and security policy. The current approach is just not proportional to the challenges Canada will face in the Arctic.”

- GARY PARK





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