Calgary Herald

Warming up to the Arctic

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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.

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