Warming up to the Arctic
The Arctic may be far removed from many Canadians’ homes, but it’s clearly close to their hearts.
A survey commissioned by the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs found Canadians demonstrate a strong sense of possessiveness toward our Arctic territories. No other polar nation expressed such a willingness to maintain a “firm line” in protecting national interests in the North, with 40 per cent of Canadians sharing such a view.
Much of the credit for the awareness of the Arctic’s potential has to go to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has made northern sovereignty a personal and political priority. When Harper came to power in 2006, he soon declared it essential to establish ownership of the North — a declaration that seemed oddly out of step with Canadian public affairs at the time.
Harper’s annual visits to the North and the commitment of cash for infrastructure and bolstered military resources have helped kindle Canadians’ affection for the region — a loyalty reflected in this week’s survey results.
With retreating ice opening the possibility of new shipping routes and the prospect of expanded energy and mining opportunities, it is critical that Canada asserts its legitimate claim to the Arctic.
Canada still has a lot of work to do. It must ensure its promised icebreaker arrives as soon as possible and adopt a more forward-looking military presence. With ownership of much of the Arctic unfortunately in dispute, it’s clearly a case of use it or lose it.