Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday February 12, 2019
Why Canada needs to make the Arctic a national priority
You may not know this, but Canada’s Arctic makes up nearly 40 per cent of our country’s land. Based on that alone, you would think that our federal government would prioritize the protection, careful development and stewardship of the far north.
But you’d be wrong. If northern development and affairs are priorities with the Trudeau government, it’s not obvious from the outside. In fact, a growing number of international experts are voicing concern that Canada is falling behind in terms of coherent policy and ambition of our northern territory.
Scandinavian countries aren’t making the same mistake. Neither are Russia and China, both of whom have robust and ambitious goals and are taking actions that should concern Canadians.
Russia, for example, is remilitarizing its far north in order to improve its access to Arctic territories. There is new military hardware, improved communication infrastructure. Industry, surface and marine transport and offshore resource development have seen massive investment. Russia is also expanding its icebreaker fleet to improve shipping lane access.
China last year released a white paper about the Arctic. Its stated policy goals are to “understand, protect, develop and participate in the governance of the Arctic, so as to safeguard the common interests of all countries and the international community in the Arctic, and promote sustainable development of the Arctic.”
This issue isn’t new. But it’s getting more urgent for a couple of reasons. One is climate change. With ice receding shipping channels are getting bigger and more accessible and commercial interests are getting more pressing. The other is Russia’s ambitious push to restore its place in the world order — to levels it hasn’t enjoyed since the days of the USSR — and the place Arctic development and ownership play in that.
Then there is Finland, and other Nordic countries, where northern development has always been more of a priority than in Canada. At the University of Oulu, on the edge of the Arctic Circle, Finns are testing a 5G network to study and develop communication technology and innovation. And in 2016, the Finnish government launched the Aurora project, referred to as an “Arctic intelligent transport test ecosystem” to facilitate testing of autonomous vehicle technology in harsh conditions on northern roads. (Continued: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)