You probably don’t lie awake at night worrying about Canada’s claim to Arctic sovereignty, but the Prime Minister appears to be tossing and turning over the future of the True North Strong and Free.
One of the How About That? consequences of global warming is that the polar ice cap is melting three times faster than previously thought, and that means sea routes such as the Northwest Passage could be ice free, at least part of the year, as early as 2015.
This new access puts the top of the world back on the map. Former Arctic wastes now have commercial value as access to vast oil and mineral reserves, not to mention commercial shipping routes improves.
Taking the Northwest Passage from Japan to Northern Europe cuts 5,000 miles off the commute.
Thanks to all this melting, we are subject to the spectacle — I don’t know what else to call it — of the highest Canadian government officials trooping to remote Arctic outposts and ordering up raw seal for lunch.
Prime Minister Harper, who is probably not even comfortable at a Calgary Stampede BBQ, is manfully choking down seal and shaking his fist at the European Union ban on products from the annual traditional seal hunt, which also plays well up north.
At the same time, he is doing his best to protect Canadian sovereignty by making announcements, which is sure to cause our Arctic competitors (USA, Russia, Denmark and Norway) to quake in their fur-lined boots. Defense Minister Peter MacKay officially launched our first northern military reserve Monday, vowing to bring it to full strength by 2019. Full strength, by the way, is 100 not-so-warm bodies.
Once their knees stop stinging from all that hearty knee-slapping, our northern competitors will have to stifle further laughter as the PM is scheduled to board the HMCS Toronto today to observe Operation Nanook, in which the Canadian navy pretends to look for Russian and US ultra-sophisticated, stealthy nuclear subs that currently patrol our arctic waters with impunity.
And if none of the above doesn’t force them to admit that Canada is Lord of the North, Mr. Harper also announced the new HQ for the Canadian Northern Economic Development or CanNor, will be in Iqaluit, with satellite offices in Yellowknife and Whitehorse — an announcement the competition Can-Ignore.
Do I have to point out the obvious? If we’re really serious about asserting sovereignty over the North, especially that sketchy passage through the Parry Channel, we’ll have to do better than order seal sushi for lunch and issue a couple of press releases. Even if they discover a nest of beavers at the North Pole, the best we can ever expect to do is maintain sovereignty as proxies for the Americans. And that’s the True North.