Whether we like it or not, the North is experiencing profound change — precipitated mostly by climate change and warming temperatures. And as the ice continues to melt, opportunities will inevitably come for increased shipping, oil and gas extraction, and mining.
Of course, the potential is there for conflict as circumpolar states engage in a so-called "race for resources." What is Canada going to do once the Arctic waterways (including the contentious Northwest Passage) open up for longer periods of time? Part of the answer comes from the governing Conservatives’ newly minted Northern Strategy, a 40-page document that was promulgated with little fanfare.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trip this week to observe military exercises in the Canadian Arctic is designed, in part, to put an exclamation point on this new policy statement. While the visit is not terribly important from a political or electoral standpoint, it is symbolically and diplomatically significant. But a photo-op is never a good substitute for purposeful policy.
Still, when the government’s Arctic strategy was released in late July, there was a sense of relief that Ottawa had finally encapsulated Canada’s Arctic approach within a coherent policy framework — instead of trickling out one-off policy pronouncements across the country.
The Arctic blueprint is essentially broken down into four key parts: exercising sovereignty over the Arctic, promoting social and economic development, protecting our northern environment, and improving governance for our northern peoples.