IQALUIT, Nunavut – Prime Minister Stephen Harper has officially rolled out a long-promised northern development agency on the first day of his Arctic tour.
The agency – known as CanNor – will be headquartered in Iqaluit, Nunavut, with regional offices in Yellowknife and Whitehorse.
Harper says the agency will put an end to decision-making in southern office towers on northern development.
“The era of benevolent yet ultimately ineffective paternalism is over,” Harper said to the applause of local residents.
“The days of development decisions being made in a city thousand of kilometres away are past.”
CanNor, which will funnel business support and infrastructure cash, was mentioned in last fall’s throne speech.
The new agency will have a budget of $50 million over five years.
Critics have dismissed Harper’s five-day tour as a repackaging of old announcements. But Harper says his government has placed special emphasis on the Far North.
“Our government has implemented the most ambitious northern agenda in Canadian history,” he told a crowd assembled at a hockey rink that’s under federally funded repair.
“Through our northern strategy, we are forcefully asserting and defending Canada’s sovereignty and security in this region. We are protecting the unique and fragile Arctic environment for generations to come.”
The military enforcement of Ottawa’s claim to the North was on display south of Iqaluit as Canadian rangers and regular force soldiers stormed a beach in a practice amphibious assault.
The landing force embarked from HMCS Toronto, a frigate, and came ashore in Zodiacs with a Sea King helicopter hovering protectively overhead.
The central decision-making committee of the federal cabinet – priorities and planning – is meeting in Iqaluit.
Lunch involved a traditional Inuit serving of seal rib meat and liver – both raw and boiled.
Unlike the Governor General’s recent dinner of seal heart, no media cameras were allowed to record the event
Harper’s announcement came as news spread of an unfortunate blunder by the Prime Minister’s Office.
A news release sent out Monday outlining Harper’s itinerary repeatedly spelled the capital of Nunavut as “Iqualuit” – rather than Iqaluit.
The extra “u” transformed the meaning of the word to “people with unwiped bums” from the properly spelled Iqaluit, which means “many fish.”