Harper to tout resources, development during Arctic tour
Prime Minister Stephen Harper. DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency
Maybe it's the cute sled dogs. Or the seal meat. Or the rugged landscapes. Or the bounty of untapped natural resources.
Whatever the reason, the consensus is next week's annual tour of Canada's Arctic is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's favourite trip of the year.
And Sunday, he is setting off for his eighth summer tour of the Far North for what appears to be a trip largely promoting the region's natural resources and their development.
The opposition, though, say they want more than photo-ops.
"Economic development is progressing like never before. Government investments in science are helping exploration companies discover important natural resource deposits, generating significant revenues for the territories and its people," Harper's director of communications Andrew MacDougall said in a statement Friday about the upcoming trip.
Harper will make stops in Whitehorse, Yukon, Hay River, N.W.T., Gjoa Haven and Rankin Inlet in Nunavut and a huge nickel mining operation in northern Quebec. Raglan Mine reportedly employs 1,000 people and has given more than $115 million to local Inuit communities since 2004 as part of a revenue sharing agreement.
"The commercialization of these deposits is being expedited through responsible resource development while respecting the environment," MacDougall said. "Northerners are being trained to fill the growing number of jobs being created and devolution is underway to help ensure that the territories participate fully in resource development."
But Harper's critics say more is needed in developing the area. Summer fly-bys and photo-ops do not a strategy make.
"His trips in the North largely benefit him in the south," NDP MP Dennis Bevington, who represents the Northwest Territories, told QMI Agency Friday. He is also his party's critic for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
If Harper is serious about development in the area, Bevington said he should focus on the skyrocketing cost of living in Arctic communities, and the environment.
"He's been up here seven times, and won't talk about the impacts of climate change and the need for mitigation," Bevington said. "And when he's talking about sovereignty, which he has done in the past a lot, I think that's mostly been rhetoric that plays out well in the south.
"Sovereignty is going to come through improving the lives of northerners and taking care of the land. Those are things that establish sovereignty."
Harper heads up to Whitehorse Sunday and returns to Ottawa on Friday.